News Icon

Effective ways to reduce child poverty and targeting’s record of failure under spotlight


Proposals to tackle child poverty with universal child benefits were discussed

Development Pathways has shared the global record of ineffectiveness of poverty-targeted programmes in reaching the poorest and presented evidence that investing in universal child benefits is affordable and has a high-impact on child poverty.

The evidence was presented in Geneva this week at a conference convened by the ILO, UNICEF and ODI to discuss the challenges and opportunities in expanding coverage for children worldwide to reduce the 385 million living in extreme poverty.

Stephen Kidd unveiled headline findings of a new global review of the evidence on the effectiveness of poverty-targeting with Gunilla Palm, Policy Advisor for Social Protection, Church of Sweden at the event. The results from 33 programmes in 22 countries underlined that even the most effective targeted schemes from around the globe still exclude four in ten of the poorest 20%. They underline that the most ineffective programmes reviewed exclude the vast majority of the poorest.

This came as the ILO and UNICEF said that given nearly half of all children on Earth live in poverty – using the USD3.10 (purchasing power parity) ‘moderate’ poverty line – and therefore inclusive coverage, not narrow-targeting, is required. The full results of the Development Pathways/Church of Sweden review will be launched on the 14th March as they are discussed by global experts in a webinar.

Evidence on the simulated impact of universal child benefits in reducing poverty in Indonesia, by contrast, suggest a very significant impact, according to a presentation given by our Senior Social Policy Specialist Bjorn Gelders. He shared the evidence that the national poverty rate in Indonesia would be reduced from the 10.9% recorded in 2016 to only 3.9% from this single intervention of a universal child benefit for children aged up to 17.

Bjorn added that this significant reduction in poverty would be achieved at a cost of 1.6% of GDP, similar to the amount invested by the Government of Mongolia, which has led the way for low- and middle-income countries with a universal child benefit. And our Senior Social Policy Specialist Shea McClanahan said that social insurance, as well as tax-financing, could play a role in ensuring universal coverage.

Argentina’s mixed approach to using tax-financing and social insurance to move towards universal child benefit coverage was one focus of a discussion on Latin America and the Caribbean moderated by our Senior Social Policy Specialist Alexandra Barrantes. In a number of other countries worldwide consideration is being given to universal child benefits to tackle child poverty – including nations where Development Pathways is currently working, including Angola and Kenya.

Recordings of a number of the sessions of the conference from Geneva are available at


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *