Responsible Investor

Covid-19, education and inequalities

The pandemic made a new vision for the future of education all the more necessary. Generali, also thanks to The Human Safety Net initiative, pursues its commitment to supporting communities, making them more resilient and helping them to lay solid foundations for the future

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on society and the economy, with a sharp drop in global gross domestic product (GDP) recorded in 2020, further exacerbating social inequality. The available data clearly shows the consequences of the on-going pandemic and its variants: according to World Bank estimates, 120 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty in 2020; according to Unesco, 1.6 billion students in over 190 countries were unable to attend school at the height of the Covid-19 crisis due to lockdown measures.

The school situation and the disparity this crisis has generated are certainly a challenge, but have also presented an opportunity for a paradigm shift. The pandemic has offered new educational opportunities and has increased awareness from institutions and private entities concerning economic and social inequality, accelerating – in the case of schools – changes that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

According to a Holon IQ Group study, for example, venture capital investments in educational technology companies have more than doubled, from 7 billion in 2019 to around 16 billion in 2020, with prospects for further increases in 2021. During the school closures, it also emerged that there is a need to stimulate students to be more independent in their learning, including through the use of digital tools, which will help them increase their resilience when faced with any future crises.

In this context, widely spread and socially embedded entities such as insurance groups can play a crucial role in reducing the impact of inequality on the stability and resilience of economies and societies. They can do this by supporting those living in vulnerable contexts through initiatives that mobilise employees, partners and clients, and by creating new innovative products.

Generali’s long-standing commitment for the communities has also been carried out thanks to The Human Safety Net foundation, created in 2017 to bring together the skills and experience of dozens of NGOs, social enterprises and experts around the world to support disadvantaged families with young children and help refugees integrate into their host countries. To foster this movement of people helping people, the foundation leverages the skills and time of Generali people in the countries where the Group operates.

The Human Safety Net is active is 23 countries in Europe, Asia and South America, and helped 86,000 parents, children and refugees in 2020. One of the programmes of The Human Safety Net targets parents during the first six years of their child’s life to lay the strongest possible foundations for their future, promoting Early Child Development (ECD). The programme supports parents with family centres, parenting courses and home visits, empowering them to spend quality time with their children, for example through play and reading activities.

During the lockdowns due to the pandemic, partner NGOs have activated different resources to support the families at distance, from WhatsApp groups to weekly check-in moments with families. The Human Safety Net has also supported the long-term digitalisation of the NGOs leading to creation of portals and apps for parents, such as in Turkey, Italy and Austria.

Last year, in collaboration with The Human Safety Net, Generali has also developed two pilot projects for impact investing worth a total of 34 million euros. They aim to strengthen social integration through investments in sectors such as housing, adequate nutrition, microfinance and stable employment. This allows the impact of initiatives supporting vulnerable families and refugees to significantly increase, even beyond the funded programmes.