The invisible wave of child poverty

The economic and social crisis caused by the coronavirus has accentuated inequalities. We are currently living through an emergency that is especially affecting the most vulnerable children and their families. These families are suffering hardest from the ravages of the pandemic because they were already living in a vulnerable situation.

This is shown in our latest report ‘Covid-19 Anniversary: What are families telling us?’ in which we interviewed more than 1,200 vulnerable families that we help in Spain. This survey reveals that almost half of the parents we serve have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. This means that at present 12.2% of the families we help have no income, compared to 7.5% a year ago.

Many of these families depend on the food they receive from food banks and various organisations to ensure that their sons and daughters get one healthy meal a day. According to them, 31% can only eat meat, fish or the equivalent once or twice a week. Additionally, six out of ten families struggle to pay their mortgage or rent, and nearly seven out of ten cannot afford basic supplies. The pandemic has made homes a more essential part of our lives than ever before, but for many families, these four walls do not provide the right conditions for living, working or studying.

© Lolo Vasco – Save the Children

Along with job instability, this situation greatly affects the well-being of children: more than half have experienced a deterioration in their emotional state, developing stress or anxiety.

In fact, this current crisis has changed our lives in many ways: how we work, how we interact, how we consume. It has also meant a change for boys and girls in terms of studying and attending school.

On the educational level, it is worrying that 70% of the children of the families surveyed have received no extra educational attention apart from being sent homework or having it supervised during quarantine periods in the current school year (2020-21). This makes it more difficult for them to continue learning. In fact, half of these minors experience some type of difficulty in  handing in homework on time or following the school year normally. This is due mainly to the fact that many of these families do not have enough electronic devices or have no internet access. In other words, the digital divide also becomes an educational divide.

We know that the internet is a medium that democratises education because it provides access to all kinds of knowledge any time, anywhere, and when used properly it enhances children’s user skills because it opens up a whole range of leisure and educational opportunities. The problem is that the internet can also create inequalities for those who neither have access to the new technologies nor know how to use them.

Inequity in our educational system is nothing new, but the Covid-19 crisis has further evidenced the differences that already existed between pupils of different socioeconomic backgrounds, widening the educational divide. The truth is that, at the same rate of performance, boys and girls with fewer resources are four times more likely to repeat the school year than those from a higher socioeconomic background. At 17.3%, Spain already had the highest rate of early school leaving in the European Union before the pandemic.

Here at Save the Children we have been helping families with fewer resources since the beginning of the pandemic through our ‘A tu lado’ (by your side) programme to respond to the socioeconomic consequences of the health emergency by providing basic food, psychological accompaniment and school support and also providing technological tools. In this connection, Cellnex has helped the most vulnerable children to continue with this remote educational intervention by providing internet connection and tablets.

© La Pinza Foto – Save the Children

We are convinced that education is the most powerful tool for changing the life of a child and thus breaking the cycle of poverty that is passed down from parents to children. Living in a situation of poverty and social exclusion not only weighs down on the well-being of the children in these households, but on society in general because, if we do nothing, 80% of minors living in poverty today will become poor adults.

Antoni Pérez Francès

Director of Save the Children in Catalunya


Cellnex has developed the “Cellnex’s Covid-19 Relief Initiative” in the face of the global crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic”. A fund of €10 million for collaborations with national and international organisations and projects that are helping to minimise the health, economic and social impact of the crisis.

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