Closure of preschool programs for six months means losses in future salaries equivalent to over 5% of the GDP in some countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Hundreds of millions of children are losing daily learning opportunities resulting in potentially large losses in education, health, income, and productivity over their lifetimes due to preprimary‑program closures, says the new IDB study “Economic Costs of Preprimary Program Reductions due to COVID-19 Pandemic”. In addition to the devastating impact on children's mental, physical, and emotional health, the report estimates that the pandemic will also negatively impact the level of income that these children will earn as adults.
This study is the first to simulate losses due to preprimary program closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic on future earnings when current preschool‑age children become adults for 140 countries. IDB specialists analyzed 140 countries with a combined population of 6.4 billion people. The results are alarming: for example, closure of preschool for six months means losses in future salaries equivalent to 5.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Peru, 4.1% in Mexico, and 3.5% in Jamaica. The simulation also includes preschool closure scenarios for three and 12 months.
The importance of early childhood development has been long documented. The child's brain grows more in the first five years than in the rest of his life, so what happens during these preschool ages is essential for the full development of a person, including emotional aspects, health, and productivity. Access to quality early childhood development, care, and preprimary education is essential for children's intellectual development, later educational progress, and lifetime earnings. The training and accumulation of skills is key to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, so the interruption of educational services can deepen pre-existing inequities.
Public policies must mitigate the effects of preschool programs' closures to reduce potential unprecedented losses in early childhood, particularly for children from poorer backgrounds. A better distribution of internet access, computers and other electronic devices, creation of more hospitable and safer environments at home for early childhood education, support for vulnerable parents with hybrid modalities to improve parenting practices, more mental health resources and delivery of nutritious foods are some examples of policies that could preserve young children’s physical, mental, and emotional development, both immediately, and in the long run.
About the IDB
The Inter-American Development Bank's mission is to improve lives. Founded in 1959, the IDB is one of the main sources of long-term financing for economic, social, and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research projects and offers policy advice, technical assistance, and training to public and private clients throughout the region.
Florencia López Boo
Social Protection Economist Lead Specialist