“An important message from the report is that Government support for families has a very important role to play in ensuring that parents have adequate resources to protect their children. In Ireland, for instance, the child poverty rate would be over 40 per cent (rather than 8 per cent) without such supports.”
Dorothy Watson, Associate Research Professor, ESRI
As debates rage on austerity measures and social spending cuts, a new UNICEF report reveals the extent of child poverty and child deprivation in the world’s advanced economies. Some 13 million children in the European Union (plus Norway and Iceland) lack basic items necessary for their development. Meanwhile, 30 million children – across 35 OECD countries with developed economies – live in poverty.
Report Card 10, from UNICEF’s Office of Research, looks at child poverty and child deprivation across the industrialized world, comparing and ranking countries’ performance. This international comparison, says the Report, proves that child poverty in these countries is not inevitable, but policy susceptible - and that some countries are doing much better than others at protecting their most vulnerable children. Report Card 10 examines child poverty and child deprivation in two entirely different ways through a child deprivation index and through examining relative poverty.
The first measure is a Child Deprivation Index, taken from the European Union’s Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2009, from 29 European countries that includes for the first time a section on children. Report Card 10 defines a child as “deprived” if he or she lacks two or more of a list of 14 basic items, such as three meals a day, a quiet place to do homework, educational books at home, or an Internet connection. The highest rates of deprivation are found in countries that include Romania, Bulgaria and Portugal, though even some richer countries, such as France and Italy, have deprivation rates above 10%. In the league table of child deprivation, Ireland ranked 8th out of 29 economically advanced countries (4.9%).
The second measure scrutinized in Report Card 10 looks at relative poverty, examining the percentage of children living below their national “poverty line” – defined as 50 per cent of median disposable household income. In doing so UNICEF’s Office of Research tries to estimate what percentage of children are falling significantly behind what is normal for their own societies. The Nordic countries and the Netherlands have the lowest rates of relative child poverty, at around seven per cent. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have rates of between 10 and 15 per cent, while more than 20 per cent of children in Romania and the United States live in relative poverty. Ireland ranked 12th out of 35 countries (8.4%).
The report shows that 25 out of 35 countries (including Ireland) have higher levels of poverty among children than in the general population. In a society that is committed to providing special protection for children, the child poverty rate would be lower than the overall poverty rate. A decade of sustained economic growth in Ireland in the 1990s more than doubled our median income but the proportion of children living in poverty also rose because the incomes of households below the poverty line rose more slowly than the median income for the country as a whole.
Speaking about the Report Launch in Dublin, Dorothy Watson, Associate Research Professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) & at the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin, said:
“The Irish rate of child deprivation compares favourably with that of other European countries, 8th lowest of 29 countries. This is consistent with other Irish research that shows that parents try to protect their children, even when resources are limited. The level of child-specific deprivation does not give the full picture, however. Living in a household which is facing income poverty and economic stress is likely to negative consequences for children, even when the children themselves have adequate food, clothing, toys and so on. To supplement the figures on childhood deprivation, the UNICEF report also considers child poverty: living in a household with income below the poverty line. An important message from the report is that Government support for families has a very important role to play in ensuring that parents have adequate resources to protect their children. In Ireland, for instance, the child poverty rate would be over 40 per cent (rather than 8 per cent) without such supports.”
A full copy of Report Card 10 can be downloaded by clicking here
Julianne Savage, UNICEF Ireland. Tel 01 878 3000 & firstname.lastname@example.org