2014 has been an important year in the fight against child poverty, and one that may make a difference for years to come. Here are 5 things we learned during the year:
1. It has become clear that children are heavily over-represented among the world’s extreme poor. Over 569 million children aged 18 or less are living on less than $1.25 a day. So while children make up about a third of the world’s population, they represent a stunning 47% of those in extreme poverty.
2. Further, recent figures show that in richer countries children are suffering the effect of the economic recession disproportionally – underlining that child poverty is a truly global issue, and one that needs urgent attention.
3. Global commitment to fight child poverty looks to be growing. The year has been marked by a global effort to design an ambitious agenda of Sustainable Development Goals to build from the expiring MDGs. For the first time, children are included in the proposals to eradicate extreme poverty, with the Open Working Group of Member States proposing a target to “reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all age groups living in poverty in all its dimensions” by 2030. This is a potentially transformative target that recognizes the multidimensionality of poverty and seeks to complement the narrower goal of eradicating extreme poverty, measured as living on less than $1.25 a day.
4. We have the data to monitor child poverty globally and nationally. Not only is there new data on children living in monetary poverty in poorer and richer countries, but in over 100 countries in which we work child poverty has been calculated against national poverty lines. There are also now widely established and used methodologies to capture the multidimensional poverty of children – including UNICEF’s MODA, the MPI and the Bristol methodology.
5. Evidence has grown rapidly on the role of social protection systems in responding to child poverty. The Transfer Project, for example, is proving through rigorous evaluation, the impact social protection is having on child poverty in some of the countries where the burden and the challenges are at their highest. And in further signs of hope, social protection systems are a standalone target in the Open Working Group’s Sustainable Development Goal Proposals.
While much has emerged in the last year, some of the most fundamental aspects of child poverty are of course, long-known:
- that the impacts of poverty are particularly devastating for children and can have lifetime consequences;
- that the poorest children are likely to die earlier, be malnourished and miss school; and
- that while children suffer hardest and most immediately, societies suffer too as the potential of the next generation is lost to lower productivity and the inter-generational transmission of poverty continues.
However, amidst these realities, 2014 has offered hope for the future with an emerging global commitment to make tackling child poverty part of the Sustainable Development Goals, including global and national measurement, and expanding social protection systems that can make such a difference to the poorest children.
UNICEF has put ending child poverty at the heart of our Agenda for #Everychild 2015, and the year ahead will be a vital one to turn this agenda into reality. To follow or join our efforts please follow us @UNICEFSocPol.
David Stewart is the Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection at UNICEF HQ.