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Is it time for universal child benefits?

Time (GMT +01) 12:00 13:30
Hero image description: A child carries a cage in a mountainous area of Sapa, Viet Nam. Image credit:UN Photo/Kibae Park Image license:CC BY-NC-ND
This event has finished, watch or listen to the playback below.


  • David Stewart (Chair)

    Chief, Child Poverty and Social Protection, UNICEF

  • Ariunzaya Ayush

    Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Government of Mongolia

  • Nelson Marwa Sospeter

    Principal Secretary, State Department for Social Protection, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Government of Kenya

  • Brenda Sibeko

    Deputy Director-General: Comprehensive Social Security, Department of Social Development, Government of South Africa

  • Francesca Bastagli

    Director, Equity and Social Policy, and Principal Research Fellow, ODI

  • Martin Ravallion

    Edmond D. Villani Professor of Economics, Georgetown University



Governments worldwide are relying on cash and tax transfers to households with children in response to the Covid-19 crisis, amid growing calls to strengthen and expand cash transfers and social protection. A recent UN SDG report states: 'It is particularly urgent to rollout or expand social assistance to families, preferably through the use of universal child benefits.'

Universal child benefits (UCBs) can play a critical role in reducing poverty and inequality while promoting social cohesion and public support for social protection. In countries with established UCBs, they constitute a cornerstone of national social policy systems and have proved effective in scaling up social protection in times of crisis.

Drawing on recent country experience and on new policy analysis, this live digital event discusses key issues and emerging lessons concerning the challenges and trade-offs policymakers face when introducing or expanding a child benefit; the administrative and political economy implications of universal versus narrowly targeted approaches; policy financing options; and the effectiveness of alternative child benefits, including in crisis contexts.

The webinar marks the launch of an ODI-UNICEF report on universal child benefits.