Universal child benefits can reduce child poverty overnight, but only a handful of low- and middle-income countries have schemes covering all or most households with children. The finding comes as social protection experts meet in Geneva to discuss how to move to universal coverage.
The finding is contained in an ILO and UNICEF review of global social protection for children launched today at a conference in Geneva convened to bolster momentum behind the introduction of child benefits to reduce widespread poverty. They urge action given 385 million children are consigned to living in extreme poverty.
Libya, Mongolia, Suriname and Panama– albeit with unclear coverage in the former and stringent conditions for the latter – are the low- and middle-income nations lauded for universal schemes. Others such as Argentina and Kyrgyzstan, and regions such as Bihar, India and Papua province, Indonesia are praised for moving towards universal coverage.
Development Pathways’ team of technical experts and other global experts will in Geneva discuss a route map for other nations to follow the trailblazers by setting out to achieve universal child benefits to tackle poverty. Our team does so fresh from supporting UNICEF in Uzbekistan to draw up recommendations for a close-to universal child benefit which are now under consideration by the Government.
Our Senior Social Policy Specialist Shea McClanahan will outline a mechanism for achieving universal coverage that reduces costs over time by incentivising participation in national social insurance systems. She will argue that a multi-tiered child benefit – as with multi-tiered pensions – would both achieve universal coverage and act as a powerful, immediate incentive for families to make contributions.
Stephen Kidd, meanwhile, will at a high-level roundtable to be live-streamed tomorrow (Thursday), set out evidence from a global review our team carried out with support from the Church of Sweden, on the effectiveness of poverty-targeting. This new evidence on the failures of poverty-targeting to improve coverage to address child poverty comes after the ILO and UNICEF said nearly half of all children on Earth live in poverty, requiring inclusive coverage, not narrow-targeting.
Our Senior Social Policy Specialist Bjorn Gelders will provide evidence from micro-simulations of the impact of child benefits in Indonesia that highlight the large reductions in poverty that would result. And Senior Social Policy Specialist Alexandra Barrantes will moderate a session on experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean, drawing out the experiences in Argentina, Brazil and across the region.
The conference comes as a number of governments or UN agencies in low- and middle-income countries are actively considering universal child benefits, including Angola, Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, Mozambique and Tunisia, the ILO and UNICEF said. A blow-by-blow account of the challenges Mongolia and Kyrgz Republic grappled with to achieve universal benefits coverage for children – which Development Pathways reported last year – is also provided in the new report.