The COVID-19 crisis is wreaking havoc on national economies across South Asia, with damaging consequences for the wellbeing of families and children. The crisis is universal, with those on middle and high incomes potentially the hardest hit.
As a response to the crisis, it is essential that South Asian countries implement large-scale rescue packages that provide a stimulus for their economies and protect families and businesses, while minimising the risk of widespread social unrest.
This paper, written in partnership with UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia, makes the case for South Asian countries to implement emergency Universal Child Benefits (UCB) during the COVID-19 crisis. An emergency UCB would be an important component of a broader rescue package and would ensure that the vast majority of households across South Asia access a minimum level of income support. The analysis in the paper shows that across five countries, a UCB costing 2 per cent of GDP over six months would provide the recipient population with an average of between 18 and 46 per cent of their pre-COVID expenditures, with particularly high benefits for those who were the poorest members of society prior to the crisis.
The benefits of a UCB to child wellbeing, the economy, social cohesion and political stability are therefore likely to be significant while recovery from the crisis will be much quicker that what is projected to happen with the measures that are currently in place.
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