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Costs of inaction against child violence

Every day, millions of children throughout the world are subjected to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence - in their homes, schools, communities and at work. This experience affects their physical and mental health, their education, and their overall quality of life. These consequences are often intergenerational, with those who have faced violence as a child more likely to become violent adults. This cycle has a long-term impact on a family’s economic wellbeing. 

Funded by ChildFund Alliance, a report by ODI’s Social Development team explores the economic impacts and costs of violence against children. 

The hypothesis underpinning this piece of work is that the current state of affairs regarding violence and exploitation against children at the global level entails economic costs that far exceed the costs of implementing policies and programmes to address the issue. 

The study provides answers to the following questions: 

  • What is the prevalence and what are the consequences of different types of violence? 
  • What types of costs result from violence and exploitation against children globally, such as direct medical costs; protective, psychological and welfare services; foster care; expenditures related to apprehending and prosecuting; lost earnings and tax revenue due to premature death; and costs resulting from low productivity? 
  • How much do the costs of violence against children amount to globally? 
  • How much are governments currently spending on prevention of violence and exploitation against children? 
  • What are some of the most effective ways to prevent and respond to violence and exploitation against children? 

This report finds that there are significant costs for individuals, communities, governments and economies from the different forms of violence against children. In the case of global costs resulting from physical, psychological and sexual violence, these costs can be as high as 8% of global GDP. Considering other forms of violence, such as children’s involvement in hazardous work, the global costs are estimated to be $97 billion every year, which is equivalent to seven times Iceland’s 2013 GDP. The economic impact of another form of violence against children – that of children associated with armed forces or groups – is estimated to be $144 million annually.


Paola Pereznieto

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