Child poverty

For a child, poverty can last a lifetime

In the eyes of a child, poverty is about more than just money. Very often children experience poverty as the lack of shelter, education, nutrition, water or health services. The lack of these basic needs often results in deficits that cannot easily be overcome later in life. Even when not clearly deprived, having poorer opportunities than their peers in any of the above can limit future opportunities.

In most countries, children make up between a third to almost half of the population. Unless child poverty is specifically monitored, policy makers may have the misconception that progress is being made to reduce poverty, when in reality a large proportion of the population could be stagnating or worse off. This could be the case if improvements in access to health care and literacy rates are observed at the aggregate, national level while children are not taken to clinics and children are not going to school.

A major step-forward recognizing the importance of child poverty, promoted by the tireless work of NGOs in collaboration with NSOs/Ministry of Planning and other government counterparts, is that the SDGs explicitly require measurement of multidimensional child poverty.

SDG 1.2.2 Proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions


Notes on the Data

International standards, local relevance, and cross-country comparability

While the SDGs explicitly say that countries can define their own way to measure poverty, certain minima across countries ought to be respected. Child rights are universal, meaning all children should enjoy the same rights independently of the country in which they were born. The way to assess if a right is deprived cannot be adjusted downwards for certain children (whether they are from rural areas, belong to a linguistic minority, or live in a poorer country).

Thus, in spite that in some countries some items may not be needed (e.g. heaters in the tropics), all children should enjoy a minimum of quality housing. Regardless of where they live, if their dwellings do not meet hygienic and privacy requirements, the children should be considered deprived.

This does not solve all international comparability problems. Nevertheless, concentrating the measurement of child poverty on the rights that constitute poverty and accepting the principle of universality of rights, can go a long way to ensure that estimates of child poverty are useful for policy-making while at the same time providing a modicum of comparability across countries.