KATHMANDU: Approximately 53% of households have lost their jobs and 40% of them lost both jobs and other regular income sources, including remittances as of the third week of May since the enforcement of prohibitory orders to contain the second wave of coronavirus on April 29, a survey reveals.
According to a recent rapid survey conducted by Sharecast Initiative Nepal with support from UNICEF during the third quarter of May 2021, agriculture and tourism, being the biggest employment industries, including daily wagers are most likely to incur the most significant economic losses due to the lockdown.
Bagmati and Karnali provinces, among others, have appeared to be the most hit-hard to this effect, according to the survey which covered approximately 3,000 families with children as its respondents.
“This loss of large-scale job and income sources has posed threats to further ruin the socio-economic well-being of the children and their families. Resultantly, most families may reduce food intake and essential expenses, including nutrition and education for children.
About 99% of the families reported receiving no support to stave off the hardship,” shared Madhu Acharya, Chief Executive Officer of Sharecast Initiative Nepal, while presenting the findings.
Over the past year, UNICEF’s nationwide bi-monthly survey, Child and Family Tracker (https://www.unicef.org/nepal/reports/covid-19-child-and-family-tracker-findings), showed that over 60% of households with children experienced economic and livelihood losses in the first two months of initial lockdown. Although most families with children were able to recover economically since then, 40% of them remained at risk of falling into poverty.
Over 20% of the families had to reduce the quantity or change their children’s variety of food intake. Children in almost 30% of households had access to distance learning.
Yet, most children belonging to low-income households and vulnerable and marginalized groups could not take advantage of alternative learning which seems to bring multiplier effects in the long run.
However, a number of child workers appeared to have significantly reduced during the lockdown period, from 31% to 8%, the survey demonstrated. But immediately after the lockdown came to an end, child workers who used to be involved in 20% of the households had returned to their works. This implied that the lockdown had significantly contributed to the reduction of child labor, but they were most likely to start work to help their families cope with the economic struggles.
Using the survey’s evidence, UNICEF implemented emergency cash transfers to respond to the emerging needs of more than 10,000 children. To supplement the survey findings, UNICEF’s data also shows that majority of children are in need of support during troubled times. Likely, children in families depending on daily wages and those who lost income/jobs will experience adverse effects of their caregivers’ financial situation and thereby on their education, health, and psychological wellbeing.
Expanding social protection coverage of children using existing systems and providing additional cash support to prevent shocks on children is now more crucial than ever before, the survey recommended.
In this regard, UNICEF congratulates the government of Nepal on the recent expansion of the Child Grant Programme and the increase in the SSA benefit size of up to 33%. Also, it is important to increase the amount of the transfer to deal with the additional stress caused by the pandemic.
“Employment has come as the first and foremost challenge of the households covered in series of the surveys so the state-sponsored policies and programs should tailor the measures to address the issue in a short-term and long-term period”, Acharya said.
All in all, employment has to be emphatically kept in the center of development discourse and delivery to resolve several problems resulted in from the loss of income and its multi-dimensional impacts on the well-being of the people, mostly the under-served and under-represented communities.