According to a World Bank report, the extended closure of schools in India due to the coronavirus pandemic is likely to cause a loss of over USD 400 billion in the country’s future earnings, besides significant learning losses.

The report titled “Beaten or Broken? Informality and COVID-19 in South Asia” asserts that South Asia is set to plunge into its worst-ever recession in 2020 as the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on the region’s economies linger.

The South Asian region may lose USD 622 billion from the school closures in the present scenario or up to USD 880 billion in a more pessimistic scenario, adding that the regional loss is largely driven by India.

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“Temporary school closures in all South Asian countries have had major implications for students. They have kept 391 million students out of school in primary and secondary education, further complicating efforts to resolve the learning crisis,” said the report.

The report also noted that the pandemic may cause up to 5.5 million students to drop out from the education system and cause substantial education losses, which will have a lifetime impact on the productivity of a generation of students.

In India, children have been out of school for approximately 6 months. Being out of school for that long means that children not only stop learning new things, they also forget some of what they have learned, it said.

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The report has projected that based on country data on household labour incomes, the average child in South Asia may lose USD 4,400 in lifetime earnings once having entered the labour market, equivalent to 5% of total earnings.

“For reference, note that South Asian governments spend only USD 400 billion per year in total on primary and secondary education. The total loss in economic output from the current closures is hence substantially higher than what countries currently spend on education,” the report said.

The schools and universities in India were shut down on March 16 to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus. While several restrictions have been eased gradually in different phases of the ‘unlock’ since June 8, educational institutions continue to remain closed.

India’s COVID-19 caseload stands at 7.1 million while the death toll is 109,150 as of Monday.