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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » Vulnerable Children » Children's Issues » Children in Poverty Children in Poverty


A condition that puts a lot of children at risk for many of the issues listed in this section is poverty. Lack of access to basic requirements such as food, shelter and clothing are the underlying cause of poor child health, poor child nutrition, child labour, child marriage and various other issues. Children in Poverty It widens the economic, social, cultural, and gender disparities already present in society. Poverty essentially threatens every child right: survival, development and protection. Poverty follows a vicious cycle as poor children grow up to be poor adults who then pass on debt to their children.

Children experience poverty differently from adults as it creates an environment which is harmful to their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual development. It can not be simply understood in terms of household income or household consumption. UNICEF defines as "Children living in poverty experience deprivation of the material, spiritual and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential or participate as full and equal members of society."

In a study on poverty faced by children, UNICEF found that children face seven areas of severe deprivation: adequate nutrition, safe drinking water, decent sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. The study found that half the child population of the world suffers at least one form of deprivation. The nature of deprivation is such that one deprivation reinforces others. Lack of access to safe drinking water can affect a child's health, education and nutrition. Rural children in poverty are twice as likely to suffer some form of deprivation as their urban peers.

Child poverty is not an issue only in low income nations but it found in many middle income nations as well. For example Columbia and Namibia have similar levels of per-capita income but yet Namibia has more severe deprivations. Namibia's children suffer deprivations closer to those of Togo's, a much poorer country. Child poverty is also high associated with gender discrimination. How income or resources are earned, distributed and valued depends on the power relations between men and women in the family and in society in general.

Children in poverty experience more then simple material poverty. The lack of material security exposes children to all forms of abuse and exploitation. It creates economic need that pushes children into child labour, and hence forsakes their right to education and recreation. Hence children experience an emotional and mental poverty as well. This in turn produces further material poverty, creating a generational cycle of poverty.

The most popular international estimation of poverty is given by the World Bank at 1.4 Million people living below the poverty line in 2005. In 2008 the World Bank set the poverty line at $1.25 a day using 2005 Purchasing Power Parity terms and price data from the International Comparison Program 2005. This line is based on the mean of national poverty line from various poor countries.

The below poverty line in India is determined by the Planning Commission for the purpose of Central sponsored programmes in the rural areas and urban areas. The tenth five year plan calculated the poverty line by thirteen parameters, with a 0-4 score for each parameter. Families with a score less than 15 out of 52 possible marks are considered to be below the poverty line (BPL). The government caps the number of families in this category at 3.26 lakhs in the rural area and the BPL survey found a total of 3.18 lakhs families in 2002. The thirteen parameters include land holding, type of house, clothing, food security, sanitation, consumer durables, literacy status, labour force, means of livelihood, status of children, type of indebtedness, reasons for migrations etc. In the urban BPL survey poverty is calculated by seven parameters: roof, floor, water, sanitation, education level, type of employment & status of children in a house. In 2004 the survey found 1.25 lakh urban poor families below the poverty line. State governments use their own criteria for BPL calculation for the state schemes. Children in Poverty

Poverty estimation covers a much larger population than the below poverty line. There are various differing opinions on poverty estimation in India. There are four main sources of poverty estimation in India.

  • Planning Commission 2004-05 estimates: the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) with the use of the Consumer Price Index of Agricultural Labourers for rural poverty line and Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPIIW) for urban poverty lines, calculated the percentage of poor in the nation. Rural poverty was estimated at 28.3% and urban poverty was estimated at 25.7% as per the Uniform Recall Period consumption in which the consumer expenditure data for all the items are collected from 30-day recall period. Mixed Recall period estimates are slightly lower as MRP indicated consumer expenditure data for five non-food items, namely, clothing, footwear, durable goods, education and institutional medical expenses are collected from 365-day recall period and the consumption data for the remaining items are collected from 30-day recall period. Children in Poverty
  • The Arjun Sengupta Report on conditions of work and promotion of livelihoods in the unorganised sector': estimates the 77% of the population, that is there are 836 million people with the purchasing power income of less than two dollars. Based on NSSO data the committee categorizes poverty into four distinct groups: The extremely poor are people who survive at 0.75 of the official poverty line (PL) (which is at approximately Rs. 10 per capita per day). The poor subsist between 0.75 PL and PL. The marginally poor are slightly better off as their daily consumption rests between PL and 1.25PL. And lastly the vulnerable group who is in danger of becoming poor live on 1.25PL to 2PL (which is approximately Rs 20.3 per capital per day).
  • The Saxena Committee Report: In August, 2009, The Saxena Committee, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Rural Development to advice on a methodology for conducting the Below Poverty Line (BPL) census for the 11th five year plan. The committee aimed at three things; to automatically exclude non-poor families from the survey, automatically include extreme poor families and grade the rest of the families according to fare criteria. The Saxena Committee estimates the 50% of the population would be included in the BPL list.
  • The Tendulkar Committee Report: In November 2009, the Tendulkar Committee, which was appointed by the Planning Commission of India as an expert group to review the methodology for estimation of poverty, produced a report. The committee suggests it is best to continue calculating the poverty line according to private household consumer expenditure of Indian households from data connected by NSSO. Hence according to this report the urban poverty headcount ratio is 25.7 % as calculated previously. But there has been a change in the rural national poverty headcount ratio which was originally calculated to be 28.3 %. It is now estimated at a much "higher and accurate" ratio of 41.8%. This means that according to the report, 37.2% of the population is considered to be below the new poverty line. The new all India poverty line is set at Rs. 446.68 in rural areas and Rs. 578.8 in urban areas.