Ensuring that policies prioritize children
Home to the world’s fourth-largest population of children, Indonesia has made significant gains in child well-being over the past decade: the country’s infant mortality rate has declined steadily, primary school completion rates are on the rise, the proportion of people without access to a safe water source has been cut by more than half, and new child protection legislation has helped to curtail the practice of child marriage.
While the country’s strong economic growth has led to a steady drop in child poverty, national trends mask wide disparities across Indonesia’s 34 provinces. For instance, six per cent of children live below the national poverty line in the capital Jakarta, compared to 35 per cent in Papua.
But income poverty is only part of the story. The majority of children continue to experience multiple deprivations that impact their well-being despite not living in households considered ‘poor’ by traditional monetary measures. These non-financial deprivations – which include lack of access to food and nutrition, health, water and sanitation, education and child protection – are of major consequence, as deficits in these areas prevent children from reaching their full potential.
Eliminating disparities by focusing on equitable access to health, education, child protection and other essential services is vital to a peaceful, prosperous future. It will also enable Indonesia to fulfil the potential of its demographic dividend: the period when a country’s population age structure is the most favourable for accelerated economic growth.
With about 29 per cent of people currently under 18 years of age, the country now has a rare opportunity to create the right conditions to capitalize on the future productive potential of its youthful population.
UNICEF believes that children should be at the centre of the policy agenda and not on its margins. For any policy to fulfil its ambition, however, it needs to be informed by accurate research and supported by sound statistics.
UNICEF’s focus on facts and the provision of up-to-date data helps policymakers to budget and plan equitably, so that public resources are invested to better serve children. This necessitates working with multiple agencies at sub-national and national levels, such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning or the National Institute of Statistics.
At the heart of UNICEF’s work in social policy is the goal of reducing child poverty and eradicating the spectrum of multi-dimensional poverty that severely compromises children’s wellbeing.
Policies that prioritize the poorest, most hard-to-reach children help bring about improved living conditions and wellbeing that manifest as better health outcomes, access to education, water and sanitation and improved protection.
For children to survive and thrive – especially those who are most vulnerable – universal social protection and pro-child financing at local and national levels must be in place. Similarly, child-sensitive planning and budgeting for social protection measures during times of emergency are critical to disaster preparedness.
Given Indonesia’s complex geography and vulnerability to disasters, UNICEF leverages technology by using real-time data in order to help the government to improve service delivery.