Universal child benefits

Policy issues and options

Ten years old getting ready to go to school in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. In 2019, UNICEF initiated a ‘cash plus” model of services jointly with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to enhance the impact of cash transfer on child poverty.


Children are twice as likely to live in poverty as adults, and a staggering 385 million children, or one in five, are struggling to survive on less than US$1.90 a day. Poverty is about more than income, and over 660 million children are estimated to be living in multidimensionally poor households, again with poverty rates consistently higher than adults. Social protection is crucial in protecting and empowering children in poverty. Yet, millions of children globally are not covered by social protection at all, with only one out of three receiving some form of child or family benefit.

Child benefits are one of the most widely used social protection programmes for children and provide direct financial relief for families in the form of cash or tax transfers, and have been proven to drive down poverty rates and help children flourish. This joint report by UNICEF and the Overseas Development Institute critically reviews the case for universal child benefits, and provides practical recommendations and key considerations for governments embarking on policy decisions regarding benefits for children. It seeks to contribute to a burgeoning and lively debate on the role of universal child benefits as a policy instrument in the pursuit of child poverty reduction and universal social protection.

Please contact: pubdoc@unicef.org

Cover page of the report.
UNICEF and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
Publication date