Across South Asia, children are largely excluded from national social security systems. As a result, families are unable to adequately support the development of their children and are vulnerable to the daily crises that impact on their standards of living. Indeed, most families in South Asia have been unable to weather the shock of the COVID-19 crisis, which has resulted in a significant deterioration in child wellbeing through the region and threatens to reverse many of the gains made in growth and prosperity during recent years.
Countries in South Asia risk undermining their economies if they do not invest in children. If the health, nutrition and learning of children is to be enhanced, it is critical that an imaginative solution is found to the challenge of widespread low incomes.
This paper from the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia demonstrates how all countries in South Asia could invest in Universal Child Benefits (UCBs), in line with the right to social security for all children, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It presents costed options for UCBs across Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with simulations of their potential coverage and impacts on poverty, household consumption and inequality.
This paper concludes that it is possible for all governments in South Asia to introduce a UCB immediately for younger children and, over 10-15 years, reach all children aged 0-17 years. The impacts on child wellbeing would be significant not only among the poorest families but also among those on middle (but still low and insecure incomes). The COVID-19 crisis makes it even more important for countries to find the fiscal space to invest in UCBs, which would support both economic recovery and provide essential financial assistance to families across South Asia.
Read the paper here.