A recent report by the United Nations has highlighted the severe consequences of the lack of social protection policies for children. Children who do not have access to adequate social protection are more likely to experience poor health, limited educational opportunities, and limited economic mobility. This can lead to a vicious cycle of poverty perpetuating across generations and undermines a country’s human development. Additionally, the lack of social protection policies can have broader implications for a country’s economy and social stability.
The UN report, titled “More than a billion reasons: The urgent need to build universal social protection for children,” reveals that only 26.4% of children aged 0-15 are currently shielded by social protection policies, leaving the remaining 73.6% vulnerable to poverty and exclusion. The report further states that 2.4 billion children worldwide need adequate social protection. Nearly 1.77 billion lacking access to child or family cash benefits. The report also highlights regional disparities, with one billion children living in multidimensional poverty without access to essential services.
The lack of social protection policies can lead to social unrest and instability as families and communities struggle to meet their basic needs. Governments that fail to address the issue of child poverty and exclusion risk undermining their legitimacy and facing social and political unrest. Moreover, children needing access to essential services and social protections are less likely to achieve their full potential. This impacts their future employment and earning potential. This, in turn, can affect a country’s economic growth and development.
The UN report recommends providing a comprehensive range of benefits that support children and families through a life-cycle approach. This ensures sustainable and equitable financing of social protection systems and guaranteeing access to decent work and adequate employee benefits. In addition, the report emphasises the need for social protection systems that are rights-based, inclusive, gender-responsive, and can effectively respond to multiple shocks and crises. These recommendations, if implemented, can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of achieving substantial social protection coverage by 2030.
In India, 31 states have implemented the national “PM CARES for Children” scheme. This aims to provide social protection to children. However, the report notes that only 4,302 children have received support from the scheme. There is still a long way to go in achieving universal social protection. Also, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to work towards building a world where all children have access to essential services and are protected from risks such as child labour and forced labour.
The UN report highlights the urgent need for governments to prioritise social protection policies to alleviate poverty and exclusion for children and their families. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to work towards building a world where all children have access to essential services and are protected from risks such as child labour and forced labour. Governments can create a more stable and equitable society by prioritising social protection policies and promoting economic growth and development.