A stark increase in child poverty has been documented in 40 of the world’s wealthiest countries between 2014 and 2021, according to a recent report from the UN Children’s Fund’s global research center, Innocenti. Focusing on the Member States of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU), the report presents a nuanced analysis of child support policies among developed economies.
CHILD POVERTY LANDSCAPE
While there’s an overall decrease in poverty by nearly eight percent over the seven-year period, the report unveils that over 69 million children still live in households earning less than 60 percent of the average national income. Poland and Slovenia top the rankings for effectively tackling child poverty, closely followed by Latvia and the Republic of Korea. Surprisingly, some of the wealthiest nations find themselves at the lower end of the country rankings.
LONG-TERM IMPACT OF POVERTY
Director of UNICEF Innocenti, Bo Viktor Nylund, emphasizes the lasting and damaging impacts of poverty on children. The lack of nutritious food, adequate clothing, and a stable home environment prevents the fulfillment of rights and can lead to poor physical and mental health. The consequences of childhood poverty extend into adulthood, affecting educational attainment and future earning potential. The report highlights that in some countries, a person born in a deprived area may live eight to nine years less than someone born in a wealthier area.
INEQUALITIES AND RISKS
The study underscores significant inequalities in poverty risks, with children in lone-parent families being over three times more likely to experience poverty. Children with disabilities and those from minority ethnic/racial backgrounds are also at a higher-than-average risk.
POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ERADICATING CHILD POVERTY
- Expand Social Protection: Increase child and family benefits to supplement household income.
- Ensure Access to Quality Services: Guarantee all children have access to essential services like childcare and free education.
- Create Employment Opportunities: Implement family-friendly policies, such as paid parental leave, and ensure adequate pay for employment opportunities.
- Adapt Measures for Specific Needs: Tailor measures for minority groups and single-headed households, addressing social protection, key services, and decent work to reduce inequalities.
By learning from the successes of nations like Poland, Slovenia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which achieved substantial reductions in child poverty, policymakers can effectively enhance the well-being of children today and in the future.