UNICEF: no cuts in public spending for children
UNICEF is calling for child poverty reduction to be an urgent national priority in Montenegro now and a pillar of its development strategy in the long run
PODGORICA, 17 OCTOBER 2020 – On the occasion of World Poverty Day on 17 October, UNICEF is calling for child poverty reduction to be an urgent national priority in Montenegro now and a pillar of its development strategy in the long run.
Since 2012, UNICEF’s research has been indicating that children are more vulnerable to poverty than any other age group in Montenegro. Every third child (32.4%) is at risk of poverty (SILC 2018, MONSTAT). The child poverty rate in Montenegro is 7 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.
Cuts in social and child protection budgets need to be avoided when dealing with the country’s challenging financial situation. Prioritized investment in the social protection system needs to be strengthened urgently to respond effectively and in a timely manner to the needs of an increasing number of children living in poverty. They are being deprived of the basic human rights and they have no time to wait. They go through childhood and adolescence only once, and that time is now. We need to act immediately.
The Rapid Social Impact Assessment of COVID-19 conducted by the UN system in Montenegro shows that one in three families with children under the age of 6 cannot afford all the necessary basic baby- and child-related products. Similarly, one-third of families with children aged 6–18 report not being able to afford clothes and footwear for their children. Therefore, reforming the social protection system to ensure adequate living standards for every Montenegrin child should be an urgent and essential part of the country’s general socio-economic development strategy.
Poverty is more than just a lack of income. It means being deprived of opportunities to develop one’s full potential. Every poor child is a life held back from the start – held back from all that it could be. Inevitably, it is also a loss for society as a whole. Therefore, poverty reduction needs to start from year 1, in early childhood. It is every child’s right, and our collective responsibility. UNICEF stands ready to support Montenegro in this endeavour.
Research 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); comparably high figures are found only in a handful of Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Lithuania and Serbia.
Also, there are significant geographical disparities that need to be taken into account in poverty reduction efforts. In the northern region of the country the risk of poverty (37.9%) is considerably higher than in the central (15.4%) and southern (19.6%) regions and in Podgorica (18%) (SILC 2018, MONSTAT).