Child poverty indicators can help end global poverty

Eradicating child poverty is one the world’s most important and urgent tasks. Whilst substantial progress has been made in reducing poverty globally, disaggregated data shows that many children are being left behind. The latest disaggregated monetary poverty figures show that children represent nearly half of the world’s extreme poor struggling to survive on less than $1.25 a day.

Many more grow up deprived of their basic needs and rights: 247 million children – or two out of every three children – in 30 sub-Saharan countries are still deprived of two or more deprivations in areas such as water, housing, education, and health which every child needs to survive, develop and thrive.

But child poverty is not just a challenge for children living in the world’s poorest countries and regions of the world. It is estimated that 76 million children live in poverty in the world’s most developed countries, a number that has increased as a consequence of the economic recession affecting most of the developed world. Today, more than ever, child poverty is a universal challenge that requires a global response.

We must do better for our children. Efforts to end poverty and promote inclusive societies cannot succeed when so many children are denied the opportunity to grow free from fear, deprivation and want. Concerned about the devastating effects of poverty on children has brought a new coalition of partners together working to end child poverty. We believe that helping children avoid poverty and overcoming its damaging effects would make a huge difference to their lives, and those of their families, communities and societies.

World leaders set to include an explicit focus to reduce child poverty for the first time
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the set of eight Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015 and will be a central part of the UN’s development agenda for the next 15 years. The new development agenda has set a clear roadmap for ending poverty and promoting social inclusion worldwide by 2030 that includes child poverty for the first time.

As part of the future development goals proposed to end poverty in all its forms, current proposals by Member States include a target to at least halve child poverty in all its dimensions. The proposed Target 1.2 reads as follows: by 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

For the first time, the global community has recognized the centrality of children to deliver on their promise to end poverty once and for all, and the need to ensure children are counted in the new post-2015 development goals. It also recognizes the multidimensional aspects of poverty, which matter hugely for the poorest and most deprived children around the world.

Child poverty is measurable and the proposed targets can be monitored using existing data
Given that child poverty is a new focus on the global development goals to end poverty by 2030, the partners in the coalition have outlined specific recommendations to measure progress towards this global goal as part of the new monitoring framework of the post-2015 development agenda. Since the new target explicitly includes children as part of the goal to end poverty, using specific child poverty indicators should be the first step.

Most experts now recognize that poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon, and the coalition recommends both monetary and multidimensional indicators to measure child poverty in the new SDGs. This is particularly important to measure poverty for children, who often experience poverty as the deprivation on the very real aspects of their lives.

Nearly every country in the world uses household surveys to produce poverty statistics. These data can be readily applied to monitor child poverty using monetary and multidimensional approaches in the new framework, and identify global and national child poverty rates according to these different dimensions. An increasing number of countries and organizations have already taken this approach, which can support Member States frame the new indicators to help reduce child poverty as part of the SDGs.

So, please read the policy brief here and let us know what you think on twitter (@AntonioFranco__ and @UNICEFSocPolicy) or in the comments below.

Antonio Franco Garcia is an Economic and Social Policy Consultant at UNICEF HQ

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  1. Nice piece Antonio. Does the $1.20 target take estimated inflation into account?

    1. Dear Ruban, inflation is considered in two different ways to calculate global poverty estimates.

      First, it is used to revise international poverty lines. The international poverty line is adjusted every few years to adjust for differences in the cost of living across countries, which change over time and to reflect changes in PPPs. The last time the World Bank adjusted the international poverty line was in 2005, when it changed from $1.08 to $1.25 (PPP) a day. Because the extreme poverty line is calculated as the average of the poverty line in the poorest countries of the world, it doesn’t need to match US inflation rates.

      Second, inflation is always taken into account by using ‘real’ consumption or income levels. The World Bank uses inflation rates from national accounts to estimate household incomes or consumption in real terms, which are then used to estimate the poverty rates in countries at different points in time.

      Building an international poverty line that allows to compare poverty levels across countries is a complex process that requires various steps. You can find more information about how the extreme poverty line is constructed in this site:,6