According to a research brief released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least 40 million children have missed out on early education amid the threat of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 pandemic.
As a sizeable number of parents have been challenged to balance their childcare, household chores, and work responsibilities, an estimated 35 million children below five years old are frequently left without adult supervision. The majority of the burden falls on the shoulders of women, who handle most of the childcare. It is doubly difficult for low to middle-income families, which largely do not have access to social protection services. Mothers have a greater tendency to engage with their child on an emotional and cognitive level.
“The requirement of multi-tasking – combining childcare and work – pushes some mothers into the informal economy, which leads to a direct loss of earnings and traps them in low-paid work,” said the report. The brief also noted that factors such as stress, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and the lack of awareness of the importance of early education, can affect the quality of parental care. Organized childcare outside the home can be a viable solution to help provide relief for tired parents so they can attain a sense of work-life balance.
The long-term implications of the pandemic may remain uncertain, but UNICEF forecasts that childcare will be one of the most severely affected services for families, given community quarantines and the “global childcare crisis”. The organization also points out that a huge portion of government aid has been used mainly for companies instead of households, something which can be addressed through adequate paid parental leave, access to affordable and high-quality non-family child care, and the adoption of remote and flexible-time work arrangements.
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