Universal Children’s Day

Spotlight on Children’s Social Protection

The 20 November is an important date for all children. On this date in 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. On the same date in 1989, the UN General assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is wholly fitting that it is now established as Universal Children’s Day.

In social security debates, the rights to social security of children are addressed often only in relation to their status as a dependant person vis-à-vis a covered parent or guardian. This is because of a common tendency to focus more readily on the rights of people of working age, or indeed of those who are no longer able to work. With greater policy attention now being given to the specific needs of children, this outlook is changing.

“On this Universal Children’s Day, we want to put the spotlight on the need to strengthen social protection for children, our future”, said Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Secretary General of the International Social Security Association.

Current data suggest that the social protection coverage of children worldwide is low and highly uneven. The ILO report that almost two-thirds of children (1.3 billion) are not covered by any form of social protection.1 Global figures produced by the World Bank and UNICEF indicate that 385 million children live in extreme poverty, and 45 per cent of all children live below the $3.10 moderate poverty line.2

We know that such exposure to poverty has negative short-term effects on the development of children (on mortality, nutrition, health, education) and longer-term consequences on their longevity and quality of life as adults.

Cash transfers can be a solution

To achieve universal social protection and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDG 1.3), there is growing interest among governments worldwide in the potential of cash transfers to make a significant difference in the lives of children, especially when combined with quality social services.

It is against this background that an international conference on Universal Child Grants (UCGs) convened by UNICEF, the International Labour Organization and the Overseas Development Institute, will be held from 6–8 February 2019, at the International Labour Office in Geneva.

An important aim of the conference is to foster informed policy debate and decision-making with regards to cash transfers, social protection, targeting versus universalism, conditionality, policy financing and the objectives of reducing child poverty and improving wider outcomes for girls and boys.

Critical consideration will be given to the implementation of different types of cash transfers, their links to wider social policy (including in-kind transfers, universal education and health services, and tax policy), and implications for UCGs.

One important focus will be the identification of methods to ensure quality service delivery. For the ISSA, the importance of service quality in the delivery of social security protection is paramount, as underlined by recent work reported in its ground breaking publication Ten global challenges for social security.

An aim is for key research findings from the conference to be selected for publication in 2019 in a themed issue of the International Social Security Review.


1 ILO. 2017. World social protection report 2017-2019: Universal social protection to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Geneva.
2 World Bank; UNICEF. 2016. Ending extreme poverty: A focus on children. Washington, DC.

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