Towards universal social protection for children: Achieving SDG 1.3
ILO-UNICEF Joint Report on Social Protection for Children
06 February 2019 :: 52 pages
:: Social protection systems, and in particular social protection floors, play a crucial role in addressing child poverty and socio-economic vulnerabilities. Evidence clearly shows impacts of social protection, and cash transfers in particular, on poverty, food security, health and access to education – thus helping to ensure that children can realize their full potential, breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability, and realizing their rights to social security.
:: The impacts of poverty on children are devastating, and yet they are twice as likely to live in poverty as adults. One in five children – 385 million – are living in extreme poverty on less than PPP USD 1.90 a day, and almost one in two – 689 million – are living in multidimensionally poor households. Across both measures children are twice as likely to live in poverty as adults. Child poverty is also an urgent concern globally, with a staggering 45 per cent of children living on less than PPP USD 3.10 a day. Moreover, 27 out of 29 OECD countries with data have child poverty rates using relative poverty lines that are above 10 per cent.
:: The vast majority of children still have no effective social protection coverage. Effective coverage figures for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 1.3.1 show that 35 per cent of children globally receive social protection benefits, with significant regional disparities: while 87 per cent of children in Europe and Central Asia and 66 per cent in the Americas receive benefits, this is the case for only 28 per cent of children in Asia and the Pacific and 16 per cent in Africa.
:: A positive trend is the expansion of cash transfers for children. Countries which have made great strides towards universal social protection coverage include Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mongolia. Yet, in many countries, social protection programmes for children struggle with limited coverage, inadequate benefit levels, fragmentation and weak institutionalization. Recent years have witnessed a groundswell of interest in universal child grants (UCGs), with a number of countries outside the OECD expressing an interest in adopting UCGs or quasi-UCGs.
:: There is significant expenditure and investment in social protection for children, but more is needed. Data on social protection expenditure for children aged 0–14 in 139 countries show that, on average, 1.1 per cent of GDP is spent on child benefits; again there are large regional disparities, from 0.1 per cent in North Africa and the Arab States to 2.5 per cent in Europe. To extend social protection for children, more fiscal resources are needed. This is affordable even in the poorest countries.
:: Despite this important progress, some countries are cutting allowances. A number of countries undergoing fiscal consolidation policies are reducing family and child benefits and allowances, often narrow-targeting child benefits to the most poor and thus excluding vulnerable children from their legitimate right to social protection. Efforts need to be made to ensure that short-term fiscal
adjustment does not undermine progress.
:: Recommendations: Towards the aim of achieving SDG 1.3 for children, this report makes the following recommendations.
:: Rapid expansion of child and family benefits for children, including the progressive realization of
universal child grants as a practical means to rapidly increase coverage.
:: Ensure that universal approaches to child and family benefits are part of a social protection system that connects to other crucial services beyond cash, and addresses life-cycle risks.
:: Institutionalize monitoring and reporting on social protection for children, including establishing a
periodic interagency report.