Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Childhood: when social protection is most crucial

 Early childhood is a pivotal period of accelerated physical, cognitive and psychological development. Experiences during this time can have life-long effects. Yet nearly 1 in 5 children in developing countries were living in extreme poverty in 2016—compared to about 1 in 10 adults (World Bank and UNICEF, 2016).

Available data show that most countries provide periodic cash benefits to children and families. Coverage of such benefits is universal in most developed countries but low in many developing countries, where the needs are greatest. In the last two decades, taxfinanced social assistance has helped extend the reach of programmes to children and families in less developed countries. Some of these programmes, including Argentina’s Universal Child Allowance, Mongolia’s Child Money Programme and South Africa’s Child Support Grant, have achieved high coverage. More typically, such programmes reach only a small proportion of the intended population and expand at a slow pace.

On average, Governments currently invest only 1.1 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) in child and family benefits (excluding spending on health). The proportion of GDP benefiting children and families varies widely, ranging from 0.2 per cent in Southern Asia to 2.3 per cent in Western Europe (ILO, 2017a). If child benefits are to have a meaningful impact on the well-being of children—and help close the poverty gap between children and adults—Governments will need to invest additional resources in them.

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