Child poverty

Children are more likely to live in poverty than adults. They’re also more vulnerable to its effects.

Children play outside a metal polishing workshop in the Shivnagar Mohalla slum in India.
UNICEF/UNI112437/Halle'n

In recent years, the world has made remarkable strides advancing development. Yet, some 736 million 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.

Children who grow up impoverished often lack the food, sanitation, shelter, health care and education they need to survive and thrive. Across the world, about one in three children – roughly 663 million – live in households that are multidimensionally poor, meaning they lack necessities as basic as nutrition or clean water.

An estimated 385 million children live in extreme poverty.

The consequences are grave. Worldwide, the poorest children are twice as likely to die in childhood than their wealthier peers. For those growing up in humanitarian crises, the risks of deprivation and exclusion surge. Even in the world’s richest countries, one in seven children still live in poverty. Today, one in four children in the European Union are at risk of falling into poverty.

No matter where they are, children who grow up impoverished suffer from poor living standards, develop fewer skills for the workforce, and earn lower wages as adults.

Yet, only a limited number of Governments have set the elimination of child poverty as a national priority.

 

Child poverty facts

UNICEF’s response

Child poverty is neither inevitable nor immune to efforts to address it. As many countries have already shown, it can be reduced and even eradicated through continued attention and action.

With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), nations agreed for the first time in history to end extreme child poverty. The SDGs call for multidimensional child poverty – a measure of poverty that goes beyond income – to be halved by 2030, building a world in which all children have what they need to survive, thrive and fulfil their potential.

As part of this commitment, UNICEF mobilizes actors at the national, regional and global levels to help countries measure and address child poverty in all its dimensions. With the World Bank, we produce global statistics on extreme child poverty that help guide policymakers. We also work with Governments and partners on integrated policies and programmes, backed by the resources needed to put them into practice. Our efforts support the expansion of child-sensitive social protection programmes, including universal child benefits, which have been shown to positively impact children’s health, education and nutrition.

Since 2014, UNICEF has played an instrumental role in directing global attention to child poverty. The Global Coalition to End Child Poverty, chaired by UNICEF, has become a powerful initiative for raising awareness about child poverty and accelerating global efforts to tackle it. As part of the coalition, we produced a comprehensive guide to help countries reach the Sustainable Development Goals for child poverty.