Social protection during the economic crisis

How do changes to benefits systems affect children?

by Barbara Janta, Marie-Louise Henham

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Children are more likely to be at risk of poverty and social exclusion than adults, the European Commission concluded in its 2013 recommendation ‘Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage'. The economic crisis and its widespread effects have increased poverty and social exclusion risks, notably through cuts in public spending leading to underinvestment in child-focused policies. However, authorities increasingly realise that the austerity measures affecting the expenditure on early intervention and preventive policies may result in greater public spending in the future. As a result, new initiatives have been launched, focusing on implementing cost-effective measures to improve childcare services, education, and health care, and designed to help tackle unemployment and housing issues. All these elements are crucial for improving the well-being of children and families, as well as for promoting stability. A handful of European countries have proceeded with measures to mitigate the impact of economic crisis on children and families. Austria, Germany, France, and Italy have put in place new cash allowances, increased tax credit/breaks, childcare provision, and increased parental leave. Such initiatives aim to sustain and increase effective support for vulnerable members of society, who tend to be hit hardest by economic crises.

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The research described in this report was prepared for the European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and was conducted by RAND Europe.

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