The Global Struggle for Child Benefits: Bridging the Gap in Social Protection for Children


News by AUN News correspondent
Saturday, February 17, 2024
AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090


  • In a world where 1.4 billion children lack essential social protection, the urgency for action is palpable. The disparity in child benefits coverage between high and low-income countries paints a stark picture of inequality, with only 9% of children in low-income nations receiving this critical support compared to 84.6% in their wealthier counterparts.
  • However, amidst these challenges, there is a glimmer of hope. Over the past 14 years, there has been a modest global increase in child benefits coverage, reaching 28.1% in 2023.
  • Yet, progress remains uneven, especially in vulnerable regions where climate change exacerbates existing disparities.
  • To address these gaps, Save the Children, ILO, and UNICEF have launched the Global Child Benefits Tracker, a pioneering online platform to monitor children’s access to benefits and advocate for closing the disparities.
  • As over 800 million children globally live in households struggling below the poverty line, prioritizing investment in social protection systems, particularly universal child benefits, is crucial for securing a brighter future for our children.

Lack of social protection leaves 1.4 billion children vulnerable

The information released today by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Save the Children, and UNICEF presents a disconcerting reality: an astounding 1.4 billion children, all of whom are below the age of 15, are not afforded any social protection and are thus left vulnerable to the brutal conditions of the world. This serves as a poignant reminder of the precarious condition of millions, who are susceptible to malnutrition, disease, and the relentless grasp of poverty.

Amidst this concerning situation, child benefits manifest as an optimistic symbol; however, they continue to elude a significant number of individuals. Aside from low-income nations, where the odds are already piled against them, these vital benefits are accessible to less than one in ten children. This alarming statistic emphasizes the critical nature of taking international action to rectify this enormous discrepancy.

Disparity Amplified: High vs. Low-Income Countries

The data presents an alarming reality: in high-income countries, a substantial 84.6% of children receive child benefits, whereas in low-income countries, only 9% of children have access to the same lifeline. This stark contrast vividly illustrates inequality, in which millions of blameless lives are determined by a geographical lottery.

Child benefits, whether in the form of monetary compensation or tax credits, function as an indispensable resource for numerous families grappling with the challenges of escaping destitution. These grants not only provide financial assistance but also ensure that children have access to healthcare, education, and appropriate nutrition, all of which are fundamental to the development of healthy, thriving children. Nevertheless, these advantages continue to be elusive to a great number of individuals in low-income nations, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality.

The urgency of global solidarity and concerted action is paramount in this epic tale of two worlds. Imparting coverage equality is not sufficient; it is also crucial to ensure that all children, irrespective of origin or circumstances, have an equivalent opportunity for a more promising future.

Modest Progress Amidst Unequal Growth

In the pursuit of universal child benefits, there has been a semblance of advancement on an international level over the last fourteen years. Since 2009, when our coverage was a modest 20%, we have gradually increased it to 28.1% by 2023. This is a small but positive step in the correct direction.

However, there is a bitter caveat to this progress: it is alarmingly unequal. While certain regions commemorate advancements, others continue to be mired in stagnation. Low-income countries, specifically, are significantly lagging behind, as evidenced by their persistently low coverage rate of 9%. The widening gap between the affluent and impoverished sustains a recurring pattern of inequity that imperils the fundamental structure of society.

The imminent threat of climate change, which disproportionately affects vulnerable nations, adds fuel to the conflagration. These nations, which are already confronted with the severe challenges of destitution, are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation, which further hinders their potential for advancement. As coverage rates in these regions fall by one-third, it is impossible to overstate the impact of climate change on social inequality.

This narrative of progress marred by inequality has never before emphasized the necessity of collective action. It is not sufficient to simply advance; it is also crucial to ensure that no child, notwithstanding the socioeconomic obstacles they encounter, is left behind. Then, and only then, can we legitimately assert advancements that merit commemoration.

Regional Breakdown Highlights Disparities

Regional disparities in coverage persist, with improvements varying across regions.

  • East Asia and the Pacific: Coverage increased from 9.2% in 2009 to 16.0% in 2023.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Rates surged from 30.8% to 41.9%.
  • South Asia witnessed an increase from 9.2% to 24.3%.
  • North America and Western Europe showed more modest gains, reaching 84.0% and 93.2% coverage, respectively.

Urgent Call to Action

As the crisis unfolds, the collective voices of three prominent organizations—the International Labour Organization (ILO), Save the Children, and UNICEF—issue a strident call that is audible and unmistakable. The message they convey is clear and unambiguous: It is critical that governments across the globe take action to ensure the well-being of all children by implementing strong social protection systems. A fundamental yet substantial notion underpins their appeal: universal child benefits.

A prominent individual at UNICEF, Natalia Winder Rossi, succinctly puts forth the critical nature of the situation in her statement, “Ending child poverty is a matter of policy choice.” These words evoke a feeling of empowerment, serving as a reminder that we possess the ability to bring about transformation. An increase in the scope of social protection to include all children would serve to safeguard them against the detrimental effects of poverty while also establishing the foundation for a society that is more equitable and prosperous.

The call to action is a pragmatic imperative, not merely an appeal for compassion. It signifies recognition that the time we invest in our children is the same time we invest in the future that we aspire to construct tomorrow. By placing universal child benefits as a top priority, we not only mitigate the immediate anguish of millions but also lay the foundation for enduring sustainable development and communal prosperity that benefit future generations.

At this critical juncture, the decision is unambiguous: shall we permit the pervasive issue of child poverty to endure, or shall we seize the opportunity and chart a course towards a more promising and all-encompassing future? Immediately, action is required.

Introducing the Global Child Benefits Tracker

An innovative initiative to address the significant discrepancies in child benefits coverage has been introduced by Save the Children, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and UNICEF: the Global Child Benefits Tracker. This groundbreaking digital platform transcends mere technological innovation and serves as an inspiration to millions of children across the globe.

One can envision a digital dashboard that sheds light on the inequities present by highlighting the areas where child benefits are utilized excessively or inadequately. Precisely, this is the goal of the Global Child Benefits Tracker. Through the meticulous monitoring of children’s benefit access, this platform functions as a vigilant observer, compelling governments and benefactors to address the disparities that impede the progress of millions of children.

However, the focus of this endeavor extends beyond mere data analysis; it involves effecting tangible transformations in the world. Equipped with the knowledge obtained from the tracker, proponents have the ability to galvanize backing and assemble stakeholders in order to give precedence to the elimination of inequities in child benefits coverage. It serves as a potent instrument for mobilizing support and activism at an international level.

Moreover, timing is of the utmost importance. In light of the fact that more than 800 million children are confined to households on the precipice of destitution, it has never been more critical to take decisive action. The Global Child Benefits Tracker provides optimism for a brighter, more equitable future for those on the margins. It is not merely a solution; it is a lifeline.

Amidst a global environment that disadvantages the most susceptible, the introduction of the Global Child Benefits Tracker signifies optimism and a concrete stride towards a future in which all children are afforded the chance to flourish.

Key Recommendations for Policymakers

The organizations urge policymakers and donors to take decisive steps towards universal social protection for all children by:

  • Building rights-based, gender-responsive, and inclusive social protection systems.
  • Closing financing gaps to ensure all children have access to vital benefits.
  • Providing comprehensive child benefits connected to essential health and social services.
  • Mobilizing sustainable financing for social protection systems.
  • Strengthening social protection for parents and caregivers to guarantee access to decent work and benefits.


The situation involving the 1.4 billion children who lack social protection is arguably the most urgent of the complex array of global issues. This crisis transcends national boundaries and requires our steadfast focus.

As stakeholders and governments navigate the perilous waters of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, one truth becomes abundantly clear: social protection system investment is not a choice but a necessity. It forms the fundamental basis upon which we construct a future that is more promising and fair for the most susceptible demographic on the planet—our offspring.

Within the depths of our shared awareness, the cries of millions of children clamor for an opportunity—one that would liberate them from the constraints of destitution and enable them to pursue their aspirations without impediment or apprehension. Neglecting this responsibility is financially unsustainable.

In light of the imminent transition into a new era, it is imperative that we reaffirm our dedication to our offspring. Let us solemnly commit to constructing a global society in which each child is valued, safeguarded, and afforded the chance to thrive. By safeguarding their future, we ensure the long-term sustainability of our global community—one in which optimism predominates and every child is included.

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