Photo credit: UNICEF

Methodology

This Global Child Benefits Tracker features official data on child poverty as well policies, legislation, coverage and financing related to social protection for children and families at the global, regional and country level. Definitions and explanations can be found here.

What is a Child Benefit?

Child benefits are schemes anchored in national legislation that provide regular cash or tax transfers (i.e. bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly) to all families with children. Child Benefits are usually paid in cash (or as a tax transfer) to the primary caregiver for children under 18 years of age. Child Benefits play a central role within the social protection system.

What are the social protection and child poverty indicators featured on the Tracker?

Social Protection Coverage

When calculating the effective coverage rate, only statutory benefits that are nationally available are measured.

Effective Social Protection Coverage of Children

Proportion of children (0 to 15 years) covered by social protection benefits: ratio of children/households receiving child or family cash benefits to the total number of children/households with children.

Effective Social Protection Coverage of Total Population

Population covered by at least one social protection cash benefit (effective coverage):Proportion of the total population receiving at least one contributory or non contributory cash benefit, or actively contributing to at least one social security scheme.

Effective Social Protection Coverage of Persons with severe disabilities

Persons with severe disabilities: Ratio of persons receiving disability cash benefits to the number of persons with severe disabilities.

Expenditure on Social Protection Systems for Children

Government expenditure on social protection: includes expenditure on services and transfers provided to individual persons and households and expenditure on services provided on a collective basis.

ILO World Social Protection Data Dashboards

Child Poverty

Monetary Child Poverty

Monetary poverty measures used in the Child Benefit Tracker reflect the analysis prepared by the World Bank Group and UNICEF of estimated trends in child poverty from 2013 to 2022, based on three international poverty lines: $2.15 (extreme poverty), $3.65 (lower middle income), and $6.85 (upper middle income).

Proportion of children living in households below the national poverty line

UNICEF Data Warehouse

Proportion of children living in households below the international poverty line

Global Trends in Child Monetary child poverty according to international lines

Multidimensional Child Poverty

Two measures of multidimensional child poverty are presented on the Global Child Benefits Tracker:

MODA+: Internationally comparable child poverty estimates

These comparable estimates of child poverty use the same dimensions, indicators and thresholds. Please note these are globally comparable estimates that may differ from nationally defined estimates of multidimensional child poverty.

UNICEF/SAVE Child Poverty Profiles

Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) for children

The disaggregation of the country’s MPI by children, measuring children in multidimensional poor households.

Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)

Country Profiles

Visit the country profiles of the Global Child Benefits Tracker that present key data on child poverty and effective coverage as well as the latest development in child-sensitive social protection programmes. The sources used include the following:

Data Validation and updates All data including the qualitative country profile data has been validated and updated by ILO, Save the Children and UNICEF colleagues in collaboration with partners. The Tracker is a live platform and data will be updated regularly based on the feedback form at the end of each page.

Glossary

A glossary of key terms has been put together to enhance understanding of key child poverty and social protection terms:

Absolute monetary poverty

Absolute monetary poverty defines people as poor if they live below the minimum income threshold required to meet basic calorie intake and other non-food good. It is measured relative to a fixed standard of living; that is, a constant income threshold or consumption level, allowing comparative or trend analysis across different points in time.

Source: End Child Poverty Global Coalition

Affluence-tested quasi-universal child benefits (qUCBs)

Child benefits that cover the large majority of the child population including middle-class households but exclude high-income households and do not cover 100% of children.

Source: UNICEF & ILO, 2019; UNICEF Europe and Central Asia, 2020

Age-limited quasi-universal child benefits (qUCBs) schemes

These are quasi-universal child benefits that cover a limited period of a child’s life-course (i.e up to 10 years). While these leave significant numbers of children in the 0–18 years age bracket without access, they are still considered qUCBs as they are an important example of the universality principle which also shows promise of progressive extension.

Source: ILO and UNICEF, 2019 ; ILO and UNICEF, 2023

Amount/level (of child benefits)

Child benefit amounts vary across and within programmes. The level of the transfer for each eligible child can vary according to the age of the child, the number of children in the household, their order of birth within the family, whether the child has a disability, and depending on other individual or family characteristics. Another critical distinction is whether child benefit values are adjusted to inflation to minimise or avoid the erosion of the real value of transfers over time. Adjustment rules vary across schemes and within schemes over time. This is one of the design variables that governments use in response to changing policy priorities (e.g. the decision not to adjust values is a common policy option for pursuing social spending cuts).

Source: ODI & UNICEF, 2020

Cash transfer programme

Non-contributory scheme or programme providing cash benefits to individuals or households, usually financed out of taxation, other government revenue, or external grants or loans. Cash transfer programmes may or may not include a means test.

Source: ILO, 2022

Categorical programmes

Categorical programmes have a clear ‘child label’ targeted ‘directly’ at children, identified by their age or via their access to or participation in school, or community or paediatric health, maternity or youth services.

Source: ODI & UNICEF, 2020

Child benefit

Child benefits are schemes anchored in national legislation that provide regular cash or tax transfers (i.e. bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly) to all families with children. Child Benefits are usually paid in cash (or as a tax transfer) to the primary caregiver for children under 18 years of age. Child Benefits play a central role within the social protection system.

Source: ODI & UNICEF, 2020

Child poverty

Children living in poverty are deprived of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation and protection, and while a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human being, it is most threatening and harmful to children, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, to reach their full potential and to participate as full members of the society.

Source: United Nations General Assembly, The Rights of the Child (Resolution A /RES/61/146, 23 January 2007), para 46

Community-based targeting

Targeting method where communities participate in identifying and selecting eligible recipients based on local knowledge.

Source: ILO, 2022

Conditional cash transfer (CCT)

Cash transfer programmes that provide cash to families subject to the condition that they fulfil specific behavioural requirements. For example, beneficiaries may be required to ensure that their children attend school regularly, or to use basic preventive nutrition and healthcare services.

Source: ILO, 2022 ; UNICEF, 2016

Contributory scheme

Schemes in which contributions made by protected persons (actual or potential recipients) directly determine entitlement to benefits (acquired rights). The most common form of contributory social security scheme is a statutory social insurance scheme, usually covering workers in formal wage employment and, in some countries, the self-employed. Other common types of contributory schemes, providing – in the absence of social insurance – a certain level of protection include national provident funds, which usually pay a lump sum to beneficiaries when particular contingencies occur (typically old age, invalidity or death). In the case of social insurance schemes for those in wage or salaried employment, contributions are usually paid by both employees and employers (though in general, employment injury schemes are fully financed by employers).

Source: ILO, 2022

Duration (of child benefits)

The duration of the benefit indicates for how long the benefit is paid or provided to the recipients, according to national legislation. The ILO/UNICEF (2019) benefits classification specifies that child benefits need to be paid for a minimum of 10 years, more than half of one’s childhood, to be defined as Universal Child Benefits.

Source: UNICEF & ILO, 2019

Eligibility (of child benefit)

Eligibility refers to the criteria or conditions that individuals or households must meet to qualify for cash transfers. Common eligibility criteria may include: geographical location; age; residency/citizenship; categorical criteria; income level; employment status. In practice, there can be overlaps between these approaches, for example a transfer may be targeted to children in households below a particular income threshold and based in a particular province.

Source: ILO, 2022

International poverty line

The international poverty line is an absolute poverty line set by the World Bank, with reference to the national poverty lines in some of the poorest countries, to measure the population living in extreme poverty. As differences in the cost of living across the world evolve, the global poverty line has to be periodically updated to reflect these changes.

Source: End Child Poverty Global Coalition

Means-tested schemes

A scheme that provides benefits upon proof of need and targets certain categories of individuals or households whose income/assets fall below a certain threshold. A means test is used to assess whether the individual’s or household’s own resources (income and/or assets) are below a defined threshold to determine whether the applicants are eligible for a benefit at all, and if so at what level that benefit will be provided. In some countries, proxy means tests are used; that is, eligibility is determined without actually assessing income or assets, on the basis of other household characteristics (proxies such as household composition, housing characteristics, productive assets or level of education of household members) that are deemed more easily observable.

Source: ILO, 2022

Mixed-scheme quasi-universal child benefit (qUCBs)

Child or family allowances that combine contributory (social insurance), and noncontributory means-tested schemes to achieve universal or close to universal coverage of children.

Source: UNICEF & ILO, 2019 ; UNICEF Europe and Central Asia, 2020

Monetary child poverty

Monetary child poverty is measured based on household income or consumption. Monetary measures count children as poor if they are living in households below a certain poverty line.

Source: End Child Poverty Global Coalition

Multidimensional child poverty

Children living in poverty are deprived of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation and protection, and that while a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human being, it is most threatening and harmful to children, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, to reach their full potential and to participate as full members of the society. (This definition was adopted in the 2007 United Nations General Assembly).

Source: End Child Poverty Global Coalition

National poverty line

National poverty lines are either absolute poverty lines calculated as the minimum income required to meet basic calorie intake and other non-food goods or relative poverty lines, defined in reference to the overall distribution of a country’s income or consumption. Relative poverty lines frequently define people as poor if their household income is below a certain percentage of the median income of that country, and they are commonly used in higher-income countries.

Source: End Child Poverty Global Coalition

Non-contributory scheme

Non-contributory schemes, which include non-means-tested and means-tested schemes, usually require no direct contribution from beneficiaries or their employers as a condition of entitlement to receive relevant benefits. The term covers a broad range of schemes, including universal schemes for all residents (such as national health services), categorical schemes for certain groups of the population (such as children below a certain age, or older persons above a certain age) and means-tested schemes (such as social assistance schemes). Non-contributory schemes are usually financed through taxes or other state revenues, or, in certain cases, through external grants or loans.

Source: ILO, 2022

Periodicity (of child benefit)

Periodicity defines the recurring intervals at which child benefits are received by recipients, for example monthly, quarterly or annually. Child Benefits should be paid in a manner that is convenient for recipients and at a periodicity consistent with local norms for household budgeting. Benefits are not periodic if they are paid in a lump-sum or as a one-off payment.

Source: ODI & UNICEF, 2020

Sustainable Development Goal 1.3.1.

Proportion of population covered by social protection floors/systems, by sex, distinguishing children, unemployed persons, older persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, newborns, work-injury victims, and the poor and the vulnerable.

Source: UN SDGs (UNDESA)

Short-term, age-limited quasi-universal child benefits (qUCBs)

Benefits paid to all children for a limited period of the life course (e.g. ages 0–2). These are considered qUCBs as they leave significant numbers of children in the 0–18 age bracket without access, yet still exhibit an important example of the universality principle, albeit in age-restricted form.

Source: UNICEF & ILO, 2019 ; UNICEF Europe and Central Asia, 2020

Social insurance

Contributory social protection scheme that guarantees protection through an insurance mechanism, based on: (1) the payment of contributions before the occurrence of the insured contingency; (2) the sharing or “pooling” of risk; and (3) the notion of a guarantee. Many contributory social security schemes are presented and described as “insurance” schemes (usually “social insurance schemes”), despite being of mixed character, with some non-contributory elements in entitlement to benefits; this allows for a more equitable distribution of benefits, particularly for those with low incomes and short or broken work careers, among others. These non-contributory elements take various forms, being financed either by other contributors (redistribution within the scheme) or by the State.

Source: ILO, 2022

Social protection

Social protection is a universal human right and covers the range of policies and programmes needed to reduce the lifelong consequences of poverty and exclusion. Programmes like cash transfers – including child grants, school meals, skills development and more – help connect families with health care, nutritious food and quality education to give all children, no matter what circumstances they are born into, a fair chance in life.

Source: UNICEF Social Policy

Targeting

Targeting defines the selection of recipients that will be included in the scheme, policy or programme. It is the process of directing cash transfers to specific individuals or groups (the target population) identified as eligible based on the established criteria.

Source: ILO, 2022

Unconditional transfers

Unconditional transfers are those that are given to beneficiaries without any specific requirements beyond eligibility.

Source: UNICEF, 2016

Universal child benefits (UCBs)

UCBs are programmes/schemes anchored in national legislation that provide regular cash payments (i.e. monthly, quarterly or yearly) to all families with children. Having statutory status is important in this delineation of what constitutes a UCB, for reasons of sustainability and national coverage considerations. UCBs are paid in cash (or as a tax transfer) to the primary caregiver for children under 18 years of age. The benefits should be paid for a minimum of ten years as this represents a significant portion of childhood. Usually, these programmes are fully financed from general taxation. As they target particular categories of the population, UCBs are also sometimes referred to as ‘categorical transfers’. Cash benefits to households with children depart from the ‘full UCB’ scheme when they include elements of targeting other than age and legal residence or citizenship, conditionalities and when they are paid on a one-off or occasional basis.

Source: UNICEF & ILO, 2019 ; UNICEF Europe and Central Asia, 2020

SOURCE:
UNICEF/ODI (2019). Universal Child Benefits: Policy Issues and Options

Sources