The number of children without access to social protection services is increasing every year, putting them at risk of poverty, hunger and discrimination, according to a new report published by the Organization Labor International (ILO) and UNICEF.

The report, More than a billion reasons: The urgent need to build universal social protection for children , warns that between 2016 and 2020, another 50 million children aged 0-15 did not receive basic social protection benefits (particularly child benefits, paid in cash or through tax credits), bringing the total number of children under 15 in this situation to 1.46 billion globally.

“Ultimately, strengthening efforts to ensure adequate investment in universal social protection for children, ideally through universal child benefits to support families at all times, is an ethical and rational decision, and it sets us on the right path towards sustainable development and social justice,” said Shahra Razavi, Director of the ILO’s Department of Social Protection.

According to the report, child and family benefit coverage rates declined or stagnated in all regions of the world between 2016 and 2020, meaning that no country is on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving broad social protection coverage by 2030. For example, in Latin America and the Caribbean, coverage dropped significantly from around 51% to 42%, while in other regions it has stagnated or remains low. In Central Asia and South Asia; East Asia and Southeast Asia; Sub-Saharan Africa; Western Asia and North Africa, coverage rates are around 21%, 14%, 11% and 28% respectively since 2016.

When they do not receive adequate social protection, boys and girls are more exposed to poverty, disease, lack of schooling and malnutrition, and are more likely to fall prey to early marriage and child labour.

Globally, children are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty (those struggling to survive on less than $1.90 (PPP*) a day), approximately 356 million children. One billion children also live in a situation of multidimensional poverty or, what is the same, lack access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water. The number of boys and girls living in multidimensional poverty increased by 15% during the COVID-19 pandemic, which represented a setback in the progress that had been made to date in reducing child poverty and underscored the urgent need to grant them social protection.

In addition, the pandemic made it clear that social protection is a fundamental response in times of crisis. Almost all the world’s governments introduced new social protection programs or quickly adapted existing schemes to support children and families, but most failed to make permanent reforms aimed at ensuring protection against future crises, according to the report.

“When families face economic hardship, food insecurity, conflict and weather-related disasters, universal child benefits can be vital,” said Natalia Winder-Rossi, UNICEF Director of Social Policy and Social Protection. “There is an urgent need to strengthen, expand and invest in child-sensitive and crisis-responsive social protection systems to protect children from poverty and increase resilience. of the most vulnerable households.

The report shows that all countries, regardless of their level of development, have two options: “a best path”, or an investment strategy that strengthens social protection systems; and “an easy way”, a strategy that skips the necessary investments and leaves millions of children behind.

In order to reverse the negative trend, the ILO and UNICEF urge policymakers to take decisive steps to achieve universal social protection for all children, through measures such as the following:

Invest in child benefits, which are a proven and cost-effective way to combat child poverty and ensure children thrive.

Provide a range of child benefits through national social protection systems that also connect families with essential health and social services, such as high-quality free or accessible childcare.

Develop rights-based social protection systems that are gender-sensitive and inclusive and capable of responding to crises to address inequalities; and that offer better results for girls and women, migrant children and children subjected to child labour, for example.

Guarantee sustainable financing for social protection systems through the mobilization of national resources and increasing the allocation of budgets for children.

Strengthen social protection for parents and carers by ensuring access to decent employment and adequate benefits, such as unemployment, sickness, maternity, disability and retirement benefits.

Source: UN Children’s Fund

By WebDesk