Child poverty reduction for a just society in Montenegro

On the World Day of Social Justice, celebrated on 20 February, UNICEF is reminding people that at least one third of Montenegro’s children are at risk of poverty.

UNICEF Montenegro
Djeca Crna Gora
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2022
21 February 2022

PODGORICA, 20 February 2022 – On the World Day of Social Justice, celebrated on 20 February, UNICEF is reminding people that at least one third of Montenegro’s children are at risk of poverty. UNICEF is calling for sustained action to reduce child poverty as the foundation for making Montenegro a just society.

“Child poverty is a development trap for any country and a deep injustice for every child growing up poor. Reducing it should be Montenegro’s fundamental priority. UNICEF will continue to support every effort to address this vital national challenge", 

Juan Santander, UNICEF Montenegro Representative

With UNICEF’s and UNDP’s support and in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare, Maastricht University used MONSTAT data to make simulations of the impact of potential policy reforms on Montenegro’s child poverty. Simulations were implemented under auspices of the UN Joint project “JP Activate” SDG fund”.

They show that if universal child allowance for children aged 0–18 were introduced today, the national poverty rate would immediately be reduced by 3.8 percentage points and the child poverty rate by 6.7 percentage points. That means that child poverty would go below 30% for the first time since it started being measured in Montenegro in 2013. In this way, the gap between Montenegro and the EU average child poverty rate of 20% would be halved (2020).

Since 2012, UNICEF’s research has been indicating that children are more vulnerable to poverty than any other age group in Montenegro. The child poverty rate in Montenegro is 10 percentage points higher than the national poverty rate. This figure is expected to further increase due to the rise in the number of caregivers who have lost their jobs or have had their income reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A child is far more likely to grow up poor in the northern region of Montenegro, where the poverty rate (45%) is considerably higher than in the central (15%) and southern (12%) regions (SILC 2021). The latest data for Podgorica shows a poverty rate of 18% for the capital’s population (2018, SILC).

Research also shows that poverty in Montenegro is compounded by high inequality. For example, the average income of the richest one fifth of Montenegrins is 7.4 times higher than that of the poorest one fifth (Eurostat, 2020). This ratio is well above the EU average (5.1:1). Comparably high figures are found only in a handful of Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Lithuania and Serbia.

Maastricht University’s simulations of the impact of potential policy reforms on Montenegro’s child poverty also help understand their effect on reducing inequality. In this way, based on simulations of the effects of different policies, national authorities can have information on the likely effect of the reforms even before these are implemented, thus reducing the risk of unexpected consequences. The authorities can hence undertake those reforms which are most likely to create more equity and thus, a more just society.