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Child Budgeting in India: Journey Till Date

The Child Budget (CB) is not a separate budget but it is an effort to disaggregate from the overall budget, the allocations made specifically for programmes that benefit children. While the union government has launched some major child related programmes, the largest being the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), many programmes for child development are run directly by state governments. There are direct and indirect initiatives related to child budgeting to ensure basic human rights for children. These initiatives are universally defined by the United Nations and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Child Related Expenditures: Experiences from other countries

  1. In Mozambique and Ecuador, the local government officials, international, national consultants and civil societies play an important role in the Child Budgeting exercise. Like India, in these countries also the child budget is a sectoral analysis, which takes key sectors with clear relevance for a child’s survival, development and protection.

  2. In Brazil however, ‘Bolsa Familia’ (a Portuguese word meaning Family Allowance) is a social welfare programme of the Government of Brazil formed by an amalgamation of four cash transfer schemes. Bolsa Familia provides financial aid to the poor families on the condition that the families must ensure that their children are attending school and are getting vaccinated. Also, if children exceed the total number of permitted school absences, the families are dropped from the programme and their funds are deferred. This programme attempts to help the society in multiple ways – a) by reducing short-term poverty through direct cash transfers to the concerned families, b) by fighting long-term poverty through an increase in human capital among those poor families with the aid of conditional cash transfers and c) by providing free education to children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.

  3. In Mexico, the flagship poverty reduction programme ‘Progresa’ (meaning Programme for Education, Health and Nutrition) was started in 1997 and was later renamed as ‘Programa de Desarrollo Humano Oportunidades’ in 2002 and again in 2014 as ‘Prospera’ Social Inclusion Programme. This programme offers small cash payments to impoverished families and has two major impacts – a) the parents have to ensure that they send their children to school and b) they have to attend workshops on nutrition, hygiene and family planning. This contributes to the steep decline in child labour, improves educational level in the society, leads to an overall reduction in poverty and also enhances living standards.

From the experiences of these four countries, it could be inferred that instead of child budgeting, conditional cash transfer programmes targeting vaccination, nutrition, health and education among children can lead to better outcomes. So even if budgeting is done, transfer of funds should be conditional to get the desired outcome.

Allocation for Children: Child Budgeting in India

According to policy-makers, children deserve the best investment for their survival, good health, developmental opportunities, social securities and a dignified life. Whatever is being done for them today will determine their future. The child budget work was started by the Government of India along with the Centre for Child Rights in 2000, taking into account the decadal analysis of the child perspective in the Union Budget. Though such initiatives in budget analysis were already being undertaken in the country at the state level with respect to Dalits, tribal and rural development etc., the focus on children was missing from any such analysis. Following the Centre for Child Rights’ report, the Government of India in 2005 announced that it would be undertaking child budget work in the Centre as well as the States.

A statement of ‘Child Budgeting’ was introduced in the Expenditure Budget, Volume I of the Union Budget from 2008-09 as Statement 22 which became Statement 12 from 2017-18 onwards. The Table-1 below, provides a summary of the Union Budget and Child Budget of the country over the last twelve years from 2008-09 to 2019-20. During the period, the share of the child budget in the main budget has shown a decline of 1.20 percentage points. From 4.5% in 2008-09, it has declined to 3.3% in 2019-20. The decline of allocation share for 37% of the country’s population which is under 18 years of age is a grave concern. Overall, while calculating compound annual growth rate, it was seen that the Union Budget grew at a rate of 10.97% between 2008-09 to 2019-20 compared to 7.68% for CB.

Pattern of Allocation:

The very first thing in designing a budget for children is determining the needs of children. To capture such needs, both, the demand as well as the supply side need to be consulted. To find out the actual allocation, the distribution should be segregated into four key priority areas of child development[1], which are: a) Survival, Health and Nutrition, b) Education and Development, c) Protection and d) Participation. As children are unable to express their demands and are too immature to form opinions, it is the responsibility of the Government to identify their age-specific needs. The needs of children may require different allocations of resources: they may be higher in some sectors like health and education as compared to others. So, the sector-wise allocations under the child budget have been planned to holistically meet the requirements of a child at different stages.

The distribution of actual expenditure on child related schemes for the year 2018-19 is presented in Chart-2. It shows that out of the 24 ministries/departments[2], the major share is only of two demand numbers i.e. 58[3] (for Rs. 47709.74 crore that comprises 62.68% of the total CB[4]) and 100[5] (for Rs. 20206.54 crore that comprises 26.55% of the total CB). The other 22 demands have 77 child specific schemes but their share in total CB is very small.

During the same fiscal year of 2018-19, the total expenditure of India was Rs.2141975 crore. Out of this, the expenditure on demographic dividend of the country’s 37% of population under the age of 18 years was only 3% i.e. Rs. 76114.21 crore (Chart-3). And of this 3.0% of the total Union budget which was spent on children, 69.34% was spent on education, 29.27% on health, 1.35% on protection and only 0.03% on participation (Chart-4).

The analysis of 13 years in Table-2 shows that though there is an increase in accountability of mainstreaming of Child Budgeting, the share of CB in the Union Budget is not increasing. The government’s commitment towards children is pinpointed through an increase in the number of schemes and the number of departments with slight decrease in the intervening years. Moreover, the inclusion of actual expenditures of 2017-18 in 2019-20’s budget is another step in this direction. On an average, the share of CB remains at 3.9% of the total Union Budget, which is even lower than the recommended share as per National Plan of Action for Children 2016.[6] The investment on children has a positive return, so it is high time now to evaluate the opportunity cost of the child focused budget which can be used as an important economic tool to evaluate the future implications on the economy.

Finance Commission and Child Priority:

The Finance Commission (FC) is a governmental body under Article 280 of the Indian Constitution and is formulated for every five years. It is constituted by the President of India to review the state of finances of the Union and the States and suggests measures for maintaining a stable and sustainable fiscal environment. It also makes recommendations regarding the devolution of taxes between the Centre and the States from the divisible pool which includes all central taxes but excludes surcharges and cess.

The 15th Finance Commission recommended, for the first time in history, a grant of Rs.7375 crore for nutrition of children aged between six months to six years in 2020-21. This will not be substituted for either state share or union share as it is an “additionality”. It is sure that if implemented, this grant will help in fighting the malnutrition among the children in India.


An investment in children is the best means to develop human resources. This developmental target can only be attained when proper consideration is given to the child. Return of investment in the early stages of life is much higher than that on later life investments. About 47.21 crore population of India are children. Our collective future will depend on nourishing these children equitably in a just and discrimination-free environment. The enabling factors of child development, again, will depend on the policies and strategies of the country and its financial management system.

Dr. Barna Ganguli
Assistant Professor, Centre for Economic Policy and Public Finance (CEPPF), Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), Patna, Bihar. Email:;


[1] As per National Action Plan for Children,2016

[2] The chart below includes only those demand numbers against which has expenditure figures. In totality , there are 24 Demand numbers but only 14 have done actual expenditure in 2018-19.

[3] Department of School Education and Literacy, 10 schemes

[4] Total CB for 2018-19 was Rs. 76114.21crore

[5] Ministry of Women and Child Development ,9 schemes

[6] At least 5 per cent of the Union Budget must be spent on schemes and programmes directly related to children, NPAC,2016

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