Universal child benefits
For every child, social protection
Some 385 million children around the world live in extreme poverty, struggling to survive on $1.90 a day or less. Falling into poverty during childhood can have lasting effects. Rarely does a child get a second chance at an education or a healthy start in life.
Children were already more than twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty, but as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic hits them hardest, the time for a renewed focus on universal child benefits – cash benefits paid to all families with children – is now. UNICEF calls for universal child benefits to ensure that every child has the chance at a healthy, productive future.
Every child’s right
Every child has a right to social protection as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
An estimated 1.3 billion children are not covered by any form of social protection.
Yet, an estimated 1.3 billion children are not covered by any form of social protection, and only a quarter of households worldwide have access to cash support. This prevents countless children from fulfilling their potential.
UNICEF supports more than 100 countries to develop or strengthen their social protection systems and to expand their coverage to reach the most disadvantaged children and adolescents. Cash transfers are a proven, practical intervention to address poverty. They improve children's well-being across a range of outcomes, including health, nutrition and education.
Cash transfers are a proven, practical intervention to address poverty and improve children’s well-being across a range of outcomes, including health, nutrition and education.
Because universal child benefits provide cash benefits to families with children regardless of a family’s income, they help to narrow existing coverage gaps and fulfil a child’s right to social protection. Families are not typically required to meet specified conditions before receiving the benefit, nor must they contribute to it.
UNICEF and partners have launched the Universal Child Benefits Initiative to gather evidence on when, where and how universal child benefits can be used effectively to reduce child poverty and its long-term consequences. The initiative, a partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), promotes informed policy debate and decision-making on cash transfers and social protection to improve outcomes for children.