Overall poverty decreased but child poverty reduction remains a challenge
TBILISI, Georgia, 18 July 2012 - UNICEF Discussion Paper, entitled Georgia: Reducing Child Poverty, being launched today, reveals that the number of households below the relative poverty line fell from 24 to 22 per cent between 2009 and 2011. The percentage of children living in poor households fell from 28 to 25 per cent. Extreme poverty also reduced significantly during the same period. Pensions, Health Insurance and Targeted Social Assistance are important poverty reduction tools. But despite gains, especially among pensioners, there are still too many children who continue to live in poverty.
“An estimated 77,000 children under-16 are living in extreme poverty”, says Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “The fact that overall poverty has decreased and the reforms in Georgia have triggered rapid economic growth in recent years, are remarkable achievements but the benefits of growth are not necessarily equally distributed and children are not adequately represented in existing social protection schemes. Additional investments are required to protect the most vulnerable children in Georgia”. Monasch added.
The discussion paper takes the position that any future increases in social protection must take children more into account. This is both an investment in the future of Georgia as well as an investment in the prevention of family breakdown and unnecessary family separation. International evidence is clear that children who grow up in poverty have worse outcomes in health and education, and are more likely to end up in prison or unemployed. Protecting children from poverty is one of the best investments a society can make.
The discussion paper, Georgia: Reducing Child Poverty, presents a range of policy options to address child poverty in the next three-to-five years. In all these policy options (increase of Targeted Social Assistance benefit, increase of number of Targeted Social Assistance beneficiaries, and introduction of universal child benefits) a special focus is made on prioritizing social protection for children.
“We are not providing a ready-made recipe but we want this report to trigger discussions around child poverty”, says Roeland Monasch. “The primary way to address poverty is to further expand the economy with equal opportunities for all. But in the meantime prioritizing children in on-going reforms of the social protection system is critical. The future of the economy is dependent, in large part, upon the well-being of children today.“ added Monasch.
This discussion paper draws upon a larger report, The Well-Being of Children and their Families in Georgia - Georgia Welfare Monitoring Survey Second Stage 2011, prepared in co-operation with the University of York, UK, and the Institute of Social Studies and Analysis, Georgia.
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