Simulating the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis and Policy. Responses on Children in West and Central Africa
The current global financial and economic crisis, which exacerbates the impacts of the energy and food crises that immediately preceded it, has spread to the developing countries endangering recent gains in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction. The effects of the crisis are likely to vary substantially between countries and between individuals within the same country. Children are among the most vulnerable population, particularly in a period of crisis. Especially in least developed countries, where social safety nets programs are missing or poorly performing and public fiscal space is extremely limited, households with few economic opportunities are at a higher risk of falling into (monetary) poverty, suffering from hunger, removing children from school and into work, and losing access to health services. This study simulates the impacts of the global economic crisis and alternative policy responses on different dimensions of child welfare in Western and Central Africa (WCA) over the period 2009-2011. It is based on country studies for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Ghana, which broadly represent the diversity of economic conditions in WCA countries. In order to capture the complex macro-economic effects of the crisis and the various policy responses – on trade, investment, remittances, aid flows, goods and factor markets – and to then trace their consequences in terms of child welfare – monetary poverty, hunger (caloric poverty), school participation, child labour, and access to health services – a combination of macro- and micro-analysis was adopted. The simulations suggest that the strongest effects are registered in terms of monetary poverty and hunger, although large differences between countries emerge. More moderate impacts are predicted in terms of school participation, child labour, and access to health care, although these are still significant and require urgent policy responses. Specifically, Ghana is the country where children are predicted to suffer the most in terms of monetary poverty and hunger, while Burkina Faso is where the largest deteriorations in schooling, child labour and access to health services are simulated. Among the policy responses examined to counteract the negative effects of the crisis on child well-being, a targeted cash transfer to predicted poor children is by far the most effective program. A comparison between a universal and targeted approach is also presented.
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