Ukraine has been severely impacted by COVID-19, and poverty rates will likely increase dramatically. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine released an official prediction on the absolute poverty implications of the pandemic. The analysis indicates that the impacts on child poverty in Ukraine will be the most severe.
Ukraine is Europe’s second-biggest and second-poorest country, just behind Moldova. The country has more than 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 3 July, 2020. Many of the restrictions imposed on the country have been lifted as the country enters its adaptive quarantine stage, though social distancing and mask-wearing requirements remain in place.
According to the World Bank, the negative economic impact of the pandemic will show through several courses. These include a decrease in disposable incomes and consumption, lower remittances caused by decreased economic activity throughout the E.U. and lower commodity prices that impact Ukrainian exports.
UNICEF is particularly concerned that the economic collapse will have the most adverse impacts on vulnerable groups such as single parents, multiple-children households, households with children younger than 3 and single pensioners over the age of 65. UNICEF also predicts that the absolute poverty rate in Ukraine will rise from 27% to 44%, and the child poverty rate will rise from 33% to 51%. Under the less severe prediction, that would mean 6.3 million more people will be living in poverty than before, of whom 1.4 million will be children. The more severe prediction shows 9 million more people will be living in poverty, 1.8 million of them children. To put this in perspective, in 2019 50% of the population was financially unprotected. That will likely increase as poverty levels go up.
To mitigate these stark numbers, the Ukrianian Government has taken action on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. These actions include one-time payments for low-income pensioners and child disability payment beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, these payments are insufficient to combat increasing absolute poverty and child poverty in Ukraine. UNICEF says that children who live in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults, an issue that actually goes deeper than poverty itself, as the most disadvantaged children usually have disabilities, are girls or belong to minorities. For the potential 1.4 to 1.8 million children that will live in poverty due to the pandemic, this poses an immense threat to their economic mobility in adulthood.
Social Policy Programme
A solution to combat the inevitable increase in child poverty in Ukraine due to this crisis is UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme. Through advocacy and technical support to the Government of Ukraine, this program promotes equity for children and improved social welfare. It expands across four main areas.
Poverty Reduction and Macro Policies for Children: To address the drivers of poverty and social exclusion, there is a focus on improved measuring of the multidimensional aspects of child poverty. To promote child-centered family policies, issues of child poverty will be in a leading position of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Social Protection with a Focus on Integrated Modalities: This will improve cash transfer performance in poverty reduction for vulnerable children and/or displaced children and their families. Social protection programs will expand with a strengthened, locally driven intersectoral approach. This goes beyond cash transfers and includes case management and local social service provision.
Public Finance for Children: For maximum impact of public expenditure on children, UNICEF works with line ministries and the Ministry of Finance. Children’s rights are prioritized.
Local Governance and Accountability with focus on Child-Friendly Cities: UNICEF Ukraine works with local partners to fully realize children’s rights. The Child Friendly Cities initiative is a global movement that strengthens social inclusion, promotes child and youth participation and incentivizes local authorities to invest in the overall well-being of children.
While the full impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are still unknown, and with the devastating impact it has on poverty, continuing to combat child poverty in Ukraine is vital. Social welfare programs like UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme are essential to mitigate the effects of poverty, strengthen child care and enhance access to basic services. Investing in children will have a substantial impact on the future, and it is a necessary measure to combat poverty in Ukraine and around the world.
– Rochelle Gluzma