UNICEF calls it "child poverty in a time of crisis." According to a new report released today, Measuring Child Poverty, which examines child poverty in the 35 wealthiest nations, 30 million children are currently living in poverty.
As we talk about poverty throughout the world, especially in developing nations, there are still millions of children in the European Union and in the United States who do not have enough to eat, do not have appropriate books, or an internet connection, for example.
Failure to protect children from today’s economic crisis is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make.”
To be clear, measuring and monitoring the number of children who do not have a quiet space to study or an internet connection are two ways in which child poverty are calculated. But the report makes clear that this is about measuring relative poverty - children who fall far below the poverty line, or who live in a household whose income is much lower than the median in his or her country. It's also about measuring how deeply in poverty these children live, as well.
According to the report,
"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."
Still, notes the report, government policy has much to do with how well children fare from country to country:
“The report makes clear that some governments are doing much better at tackling child deprivation than others,” said Mr Alexander [Gordon Alexander, UNCIEF's Director of Research]. “The best performers show it is possible to address poverty within the current fiscal space. On the flip side, failure to protect children from today’s economic crisis is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make.”
In effect, what the report says, is that the governments that are most successful in protecting children from poverty are those that strive to reduce the number of low-income households and help to provide essential goods, services, and opportunities for children growing up in such households.
For example, the report found that Denmark and Sweden have much lower rates of child deprivation than Belgium or Germany, yet all four countries have roughly similar levels of economic development and per capita income. What it comes down to, in part, are looking at which safety nets are in place to ensure children have access to learning, that children are fed and clothed, and have opportunities similar to those children living in higher income households. If a government can't do that, those children living in poverty, within its borders, will grow up in poverty; leaving a legacy of deprivation for more to follow.