Social benefits for children are essential to reduce poverty, but only one in ten countries have them

June 17, 2020
Human rights

As the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic deepen, investing in social protection systems is key to protecting families from catastrophic levels of deprivation and financial hardship. At a cost of only 1% of gross domestic product, they can lead to a 20% reduction in poverty for the entire population.

Universal child welfare benefits, such as unconditional cash payments or tax transfers, are essential in the fight against child poverty, but are only available in one in ten countries worldwide, according to a new report published by Overseas Development Institute and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The report Policy Issues and Options highlights that universal cash benefits provided to children in middle-income countries at a cost of only 1% of GDP would lead to a 20% decrease in poverty across the entire population.

Investing in children not only changes their lives, it pays big dividends for their communities.

In 15 high-income countries, universal child welfare benefits actually led to a 5% reduction in child poverty, on average. It has also been shown that reduce deprivation, improving children’s overall well-being, health, education, food security, productivity, and the ability to contribute to their societies and economies as they reach adulthood.

A highly profitable lifesaver

“Investing in children not only changes their lives, it pays huge dividends for their communities and for society at large,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Now more than ever, as the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to roll back years of progress in reducing poverty, child benefits can be a lifeline. They can protect vulnerable families from deepening levels of poverty and deprivation, and they can save countries from catastrophic social and economic shocks ”.

The universalization of benefits reduces the risks often associated when some families in need are left without financial support.

“Universal benefits for children play a critical role in reducing poverty while promote social cohesion and public support for social protection. In countries with universal benefits for children, these constitute a cornerstone of national social policy systems and are effective in increasing social protection in times of crisis, ”says Sara Pantuliano, executive director of Overseas Development Institute.

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UNOCHA / Iason Athanasiadis
A group of Iraqi children playing.

Benefits do not reduce work

Importantly, the report notes that cash transfer programs do not lead to a reduction in participation in paid work among the working-age population. Rather, cash transfers help parents balance job demands with the needs of their families.

The report makes clear that expanding the coverage of benefits for children and their families requires national policies and international solidarity in financing, especially for low-income countries struggling with large populations and more limited budgets due to to COVID-19. It also emphasizes that universal benefits for children must be supported by comprehensive systems of protection and social services, including healthcare and education.

The report further highlights pathways to achieving universal coverage, including ways in which low-income countries can implement transfers for the youngest children and develop universality for all age groups. Steps that include adopting legislation and policy regulation, strengthening administrative and financial capacity, and building political and public support for the policy are critical to achieving universal benefits for children.

June 17, 2020
Human rights

As the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic deepen, investing in social protection systems is key to protecting families from catastrophic levels of deprivation and financial hardship. At a cost of only 1% of gross domestic product, they can lead to a 20% reduction in poverty for the entire population.

Universal child welfare benefits, such as unconditional cash payments or tax transfers, are essential in the fight against child poverty, but are only available in one in ten countries worldwide, according to a new report published by Overseas Development Institute and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The report Policy Issues and Options highlights that universal cash benefits provided to children in middle-income countries at a cost of only 1% of GDP would lead to a 20% decrease in poverty across the entire population.

Investing in children not only changes their lives, it pays big dividends for their communities.

In 15 high-income countries, universal child welfare benefits actually led to a 5% reduction in child poverty, on average. It has also been shown that reduce deprivation, improving children’s overall well-being, health, education, food security, productivity, and the ability to contribute to their societies and economies as they reach adulthood.

A highly profitable lifesaver

“Investing in children not only changes their lives, it pays huge dividends for their communities and for society at large,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Now more than ever, as the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to roll back years of progress in reducing poverty, child benefits can be a lifeline. They can protect vulnerable families from deepening levels of poverty and deprivation, and they can save countries from catastrophic social and economic shocks ”.

The universalization of benefits reduces the risks often associated when some families in need are left without financial support.

“Universal benefits for children play a critical role in reducing poverty while promote social cohesion and public support for social protection. In countries with universal benefits for children, these constitute a cornerstone of national social policy systems and are effective in increasing social protection in times of crisis, ”says Sara Pantuliano, executive director of Overseas Development Institute.

[Descarga nuestra aplicación Noticias ONU para IOS o Android. O subscríbete a nuestro boletín.]

UNOCHA / Iason Athanasiadis
A group of Iraqi children playing.

Benefits do not reduce work

Importantly, the report notes that cash transfer programs do not lead to a reduction in participation in paid work among the working-age population. Rather, cash transfers help parents balance job demands with the needs of their families.

The report makes clear that expanding the coverage of benefits for children and their families requires national policies and international solidarity in financing, especially for low-income countries struggling with large populations and more limited budgets due to to COVID-19. It also emphasizes that universal benefits for children must be supported by comprehensive systems of protection and social services, including healthcare and education.

The report further highlights pathways to achieving universal coverage, including ways in which low-income countries can implement transfers for the youngest children and develop universality for all age groups. Steps that include adopting legislation and policy regulation, strengthening administrative and financial capacity, and building political and public support for the policy are critical to achieving universal benefits for children.