Social protection and child poverty
UNICEF Armenia has been successful in supporting generation of child poverty data together with its partner, to be able to identify those poorest and furthest left behind, and inform policy-making.
Every third child in Armenia is currently living in poverty
Poverty is an underlying cause contributing to many challenges in the child rights realization in Armenia. No one is more vulnerable to poverty than children. Poverty affects directly children’s lives, from good nutrition to early learning, success in school, opportunities for non-formal learning and play.
Even though poverty reduction, including child poverty, has been in the focus of the Government of Armenia since the 90s, every third child in Armenia is currently living in poverty, and recent data from 2017 (34.2% child poverty rate, with 2% extreme child poverty rate) is showing that there was no reduction compared to the lowest level of poverty in 2008.
Geographical disparities are high, with every second child (50.9%) in Shirak region living in poverty. Child poverty rates substantially vary depending on the number of children in the household, the age group of the youngest child, as well as on the characteristics of the household head such as gender, educational level and employment status.
Almost one in three children in Armenia are both poor and deprived.
Every second child is multi-dimensionally poor/deprived, particularly in utilities, social interactions and leisure.
One-third of children in Armenia are deprived but not poor.
These children need direct interventions to tackle deprivation and are at risk of being missed by policies that only address monetary poverty.
Investment in their families is equally important. The amount of money available in a household plays a crucial role in determining the opportunities a child may encounter in life. Various types of cash benefits have an impact on child poverty reduction, especially extreme poverty. The family benefit (FB) scheme is the largest support programme to poor families. While the coverage of the population by the FB in Armenia is stable (13.6% of the population in 2016), its targeting needs improvement, so that the poorest and most disadvantaged are not left without essential support. At the same time, the size of cash transfers should be adequate to the needs that they aim to cover, as well as have a more vivid poverty reduction objective, and be more child oriented.
Due to the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, monetary assistance programmes are not the only forms of interventions needed by the poor.
Since 2010, with UNICEF and World Bank support, Armenia has embarked on the reform of integrated social services in the country, introducing individual case management, local social planning and cooperation among social service providers. However, challenges remain in systemic capacity development and quality of social/case management work, availability and quality of community-based services, financing of social protection, as well as professional cooperation among social service providers in addressing the multiple vulnerabilities of families and children.
Cash benefits should be interlinked and coordinated with early learning, education, health, and other services that benefit children and address their multiple vulnerabilities.
Social protection plays a vital role in strengthening the resilience of children, families and communities, achieving greater equity, and supporting national human and economic development. Targeted interventions can reduce the impact of poverty on children and improve their chances in life.
Placing children at the heart of poverty reduction is one of the best ways to break that poverty cycle and create a level playing field for every child, girls and boys alike. Child poverty reduction should be at the heart of the national development, strategies and policies of the Republic of Armenia, particularly in the context of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and the notion of “leaving no one behind”.
UNICEF believes that investing in social protection and children and adolescents makes sense from both an economic and a human development perspective. The demonstrated impacts of social protection on children’s development last long beyond childhood, increasing adult productivity, decreasing the burden of human development losses and contributing to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty.
UNICEF Armenia has been successful in supporting generation of child poverty data (monetary and multi-dimensional) together with its partner, to be able to identify those poorest and furthest left behind, and inform policy-making.
Moreover, UNICEF Armenia remains a key player in the advancement of integrated social services reforms in the country, building the capacity of case managers and social workers, assisting in the establishment of community-based services and overall development of the social protection legal and policy frameworks for the most vulnerable families and children. UNICEF Armenia has supported development of cooperation modalities between social service providers to enable them to respond to the complex needs of the most vulnerable families and children, as well as further work on the development of the cooperation modalities as common practice. In this regard, social protection reforms are viewed holistically in the context of child care and inclusive education reforms. Finally, social protection systems are key in responding to economic shocks and emergencies, especially at the local level, thus preventing families from falling further into poverty.
UNICEF Armenia has a unique role to play in ensuring that social protection programmes are responsive to children’s rights and needs and contribute to the reduction of vulnerabilities of children to poverty and deprivation. The programme components include:
Policy advocacy and technical assistance for putting child poverty reduction at the core of all government programmes.
Advocacy for better targeted and effective cash transfers affecting the lives of children.
Supporting the ongoing reform of Integrated Social Services, which contributes to achieving equitable outcomes and an adequate standard of living for children and their families.
Promoting multi-sector approach and maximizing the linkages between social protection and sector outcomes (education, health, nutrition, early childhood development, child protection, disaster risk reduction).