According to a joint report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the multiplication of crises will plunge more children into poverty, making it all the more urgent to achieve progress in the field of social protection. The region with the slowest progress is Africa. Currently, 1.46 billion children under the age of 15 are affected by poverty worldwide. This inevitably has long-term negative repercussions on communities, societies and economies in general.
Social protection is a universal human right and an essential foundation for helping the world's most vulnerable children realize their potential. The new document produced by the ILO and UNICEF, entitled "More than a billion reasons: the urgent need for universal social protection for children", examines the situation and sets out the reasons why change is needed.
The world is home to 2.4 billion children in need of adequate social protection. Yet even today, children are twice as likely as adults to live in poverty. Over 800 million children live on less than $3.20 a day; 1.3 billion on less than $5.50 a day. More than a billion children live in multidimensional poverty, which means they are deprived of the essential dimensions of childhood such as health, education and nutrition. The consequences are both immediate and permanent: increased risk of rights violations (child labor and child marriage), limited aspirations and reduced prospects.
Despite its immediate and long-term impacts, 1.5 billion children under the age of 151 are currently deprived of access to social protection. Furthermore, it is alarming that progress in increasing effective coverage worldwide has stagnated since 2016.
There are significant and troubling regional disparities in effective coverage for children. The most pronounced drop occurred in the Americas region, where coverage fell from 63.8% to 57.4%. Elsewhere, coverage remains relatively low in the Arab States, where it stands at 15.4%. In Europe and Central Asia, it fell slightly from 84.6% to 82.3%. Of all the regions, effective coverage remains lowest in Africa. The rate here has changed little since 2016, falling from 12.8% to 12.6%. In Asia and the Pacific, the coverage rate remains more or less the same, currently standing at 18%.
The difficulties faced by children are on the increase. They have been exacerbated by the continuing impact of COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, greater fragility, conflict and displacement, and the effects of the climate emergency.
According to the two organizations, improving the responsiveness of social protection systems in the event of shocks is essential to safeguard children's rights and put an end to the acceleration of child poverty triggered by crises. Children account for 41% of the 83.9 million forcibly displaced people in the world. Strengthening social protection systems and developing nascent ones on the foundations created by humanitarian aid could be part of the solution.
To achieve universal social protection for children, the growing gaps in coverage need to be filled, and policymakers need to put in place social protection for children and make the necessary funding available.