Our Priorities

Since the start of the millennium, the Chinese government has pursued extraordinarily ambitious programs to provide basic public services to its populations, including women and children. Among them there are maternal and child health care, free vaccinations, basic education, nutrition support, early childhood development programs and child protection services, as well as social protection for children.

In any country, implementing such a sweeping range of social programmes in a way that ensures equitable access for all children would require a massive effort. In China, the challenge is especially great. With rapid economic development, China has also experienced widening disparities in income and development across regions and populations.

Children in China's poorer rural areas, in remote regions with large ethnic minority populations, and those who migrate with their parents or are left behind, are among the most vulnerable: and their access to essential social services is often inadequate. Efforts to improve access for these children face several difficulties.

UNICEF works together with the Ministry of Finance and the National Development Reform Commission, among others, to promote equal access to public services for China's most vulnerable children.

Our work aims to ensure that social programmes that reach the areas and the children who are most vulnerable are planned, budgeted and effectively implemented. We support research on financing and governance in the provision of quality basic public services like primary health (maternal and child health and nutrition, immunization), sanitation, basic education, early childhood development, and social protection. Our studies examine the cost, the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of the budget allocations. These reports serve as the basis for evidenced-based policy recommendations on improving equitable access to basic public services, with a particular focus on enhancing the positive impact on children. We also study and advocate for better governance for basic public services delivery.  We work in partnership with national government to identify practical ways in which improvements in public service finance and delivery can address disparities across geographic regions and between socioeconomic groups, inspire public participation and facilitate input from children and young people in the policy-development process. We also help build bridges with experts in international best practice, to creating opportunities for capacity building for government officials in the following areas: Firstly, the overall level of budget allocations remains low for relatively new public services for children. For example, public investment in maternal and child nutrition only covers selected rural areas or nationally designated poverty stricken counties. Some other services which are essential for children, such as community based child protection services are yet to be included in the overall national public service package, and hence are not financed at all. For example, UNICEF is supporting policy research to outline strategy and determine the cost for social worker professionalization in providing such services for children.

Secondly, in China's current public finance system, the responsibility for funding of many public services is devolved to local government, so availability of funding depends on the locality's level of economic strength. Consequently, poor areas have less money for public services. Efforts to equalize available funding using central budget resources or for localities to generate more revenues need to be further improved. For example, UNICEF is support research on public finance for equitable pre-school education in rural China.

Thirdly, there is scope for the effectiveness and efficiency of China's budget allocations for some long established public services to be further enhanced, to realize value for money. Budget allocations and uses are not typically publicized. Monitoring funding uses and disparities is not easy, and opportunities for public participation and input are few. So further reform in the governance of public finance is necessary.  In this area, UNICEF is supporting policy analyses on effectiveness of government investments in public hospitals, in social assistance programmes, among others.

Our partnership with the Government of China is helping to create a stronger policy and fiscal environment for children's rights to be realised.  For example, China's national planning for social development and basic public services is beginning to take children into account and prioritise those services which ensure all children reach their full potential. The 12th Five Year Plan for Basic Public Services (2011-2015) prioritizes a series of services for children. Budget allocations for maternal child health and nutrition have increased. . Funding has also improved for health insurance programs that cover children, such as the Rural Cooperative Medical System and urban residents' basic medical insurance scheme. China has also been making progress in budget transparency. The improved disclosure of budget information at both the national and provincial levels promote greater public participation and monitoring. 

UNICEF's work to ensure that China's most vulnerable children receive equal access to basic public services has produced results. But there is still more to do, and we will continue to work with partners to ensure that the evidence on child policy and what works to end it inform policy.

You can help promote gender equality. Take action by valuing girls equally and encouraging them to achieve success in any field they choose. Or find out how you can support UNICEF's work today.

Sign up here to receive copies of UNICEF's e-newsletters