Every child deserves an equitable chance in life.
How governments decide to spend public resources is critical to providing children with the things they need to survive and thrive.
Across the world, children are more likely to live in poverty than adults. They are also more vulnerable to its effects. Social protection programmes – like cash transfers, health insurance and education subsidies – help give every child an equitable chance in life. They improve children's access to good nutrition, health care and education, and reduce the lifelong consequences of poverty. But global coverage is low: For almost three out of every four children, social protection remains out of reach.
Children are left behind for various reasons. Social services are often underfunded, with available funds favouring services that never reach the most disadvantaged families. Local governments – increasingly responsible for providing things like health care and education – may also lack the capacity to collect data, consult communities, and determine why and where children remain cut off from needs.
For children affected by humanitarian crises, the challenges stack up. Protracted conflicts, violence and climate change compound poverty and inequity, forcing those with little means to bear great burdens.
Topics in social policy
The world has made remarkable strides advancing development. Yet, hundreds of millions of people still live in extreme poverty. Children are disproportionately affected. Despite comprising one third of the global population, they represent half of those struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day.
Social protection covers the range of policies and programmes needed to reduce the lifelong consequences of poverty and exclusion. Programmes like cash transfers – including child grants, school meals, skills development and more – help connect families with health care, nutritious food and quality education.
Global evidence shows that public spending on children is a smart investment – for children, their communities and entire countries. When governments invest in children, health outcomes improve, incomes rise, economies grow and societies become more cohesive. Despite these benefits, public spending on health and education has stagnated in many parts of the world, and may be insufficient to meet the needs of children.
Local governments play a key role providing essential services to children. Whether in urban or rural settings, they help connect girls and boys to nutritious food, safe water, quality education, sanitation, and other services that reduce the burden of poverty. Yet, in many countries, local governments are not fully equipped to meet children’s needs.
What we do
Together with partners, UNICEF works to give every child an equitable chance in life.
We call for Governments to recognize child poverty as a national policy priority and protect children from its most devastating effects. We support countries’ efforts to assess both monetary and multidimensional child poverty – measures of deprivation that go beyond income – and to address them through policies, programmes and budgets.
UNICEF helps countries strengthen and expand social protection systems that reach those most at risk of discrimination and exclusion. This includes supporting the development of national cash transfer programmes, and strengthening social protection systems so that families gain access to health care, education and social welfare, even in the face of humanitarian crises.
We support national and local governments to mobilize, allocate and improve the utilization of public financial resources to deliver more equitable, sustainable social services.
And we help build the capacity of local governments – in both urban and rural contexts – to generate local data, plan services, prepare for emergencies, budget equitably and monitor the impact of interventions on children.
UNICEF leads the Child Friendly Cities Initiative, which supports municipal governments in fulfilling the rights of children. The initiative brings together governments and other stakeholders, such as civil society organizations, the private sector, academia, media and children themselves, who wish to make their communities more child-friendly.