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Tens of Millions of Children Living in Poverty in the World’s Richest Countries

Unicef / News Report
Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012
“Numbers like this make you wonder how much longer the United States is even going to count as a ‘developed country.’”
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As debates rage on austerity measures and social spending cuts, a new 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 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. 

“The data reinforces that far too many children continue to go without the basics in countries that have the means to provide,” said Gordon Alexander, Director of UNICEF's Office of Research. “The report also shows that some countries performed well – when looking at what is largely pre crisis data – due to the social protection systems that were in place. The risk is that in the current crisis we won’t see the consequences of poor decisions until much later.”

Report Card 10 examines child poverty and child deprivation in two entirely different ways. By examining these two different types of child poverty, Report Card 10 brings together the very latest available data on child poverty and child deprivation across all of the world’s advanced industrial economies.

The first measure is a Child Deprivation Index, taken from data European Union’s Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 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 (with more than 70%, 50% and 27% respectively), though even some richer countries, such as France and Italy, have deprivation rates above 10%. The Nordic countries have the least deprivation among children, all with rates below 3%.

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 can be considered 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.

Particularly striking in Report Card 10 are the comparisons between countries with similar economies, demonstrating that government policy can have a significant impact on the lives of children. For example, 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.

“The report makes clear that some governments are doing much better at tackling child deprivation than others,” said Mr Alexander. “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.”


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No child should go hungry or

No child should go hungry or lack shelter, amongst other necessities, in a country that spends more on military expenditures than its 10 closest competitors "combined." We also are systematically abolishing unions and the right to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions, decimating our once renown public school system, making higher education the sole province of the wealthy and continuing a nauseatingly laughable "progressive" tax code that has the elite of our thoroughly debauched nation paying half or less than those struggling to keep their heads above poverty's water. I'm curious at how God can continue to "bless America" when, in point of "fact," we're going to hell.

At least kids are worse off

At least kids are worse off in Romania than the United States.

Interesting. Gina sounds

Interesting. Gina sounds very much like Rick Santorum, who thinks that all we have to do is get everyone married (man to woman, of course), procreate in the name of God, and society's ills will correct themselves. Incredibly naive. Stupid, even. But supposedly intelligent people seem to believe this. To BBreck, I agree with you, but would go even further. What is happening in the US is not only shameful, I believe it is totally deliberate. We are completely expendable. They have no interest in allowing us to live on into old age, because it takes away from the bottom line, reduces the profit margin. Much better to make them work until they can't work anymore (raising the retirement age to 70), and then hope they die quickly. Maximizes profits. If they take away the medicare, we'll die even quicker.

Gina, There is something to


There is something to be said for genetic tissue "donor" that flee from financial obligation (men and women) as soon as the baby is born. But there are many who are not financially able to keep children out of poverty. My son was raised in poverty for half of his life since the only jobs his father and I (married) could only get just above minimum wage jobs. Better jobs were just not there. Many times I worked two jobs just to keep food on the table. We did not suffer from a lack of values nor were we alone in that situation. There were tens of thousands of laid off workers right in the same boat just in our state. Today there are millions in that boat.

Child poverty does have everything to do with the wealth of a nation and its priorities. The US is a country of great monitary wealth, but there is a severe dirth of values, which is why we don't put a priority on ensuring children will have a good education, food to eat, and a safe shelter.

@ginapanettieri: Is it

@ginapanettieri: Is it possible that you are unfamiliar with the ways that the US (I'm assuming that you're talking about the US) economic policies and the US system of justice create challenges for working-class families?

I believe that the conclusions that the UN report draws, in point of fact, highlight the impact of policy on circumstance and behavior, not the impact of values.

The relationship is between a

The relationship is between a dearth of intact families and child poverty. Our nation has an astronomical number of one-parent families where the second parent does not (will not, or cannot be made to) participate economically and fundamentally in the upbringing of the child. Has nothing to do with the wealth of the nation, but of the poverty of values.

Facts: Iceland has the best

Facts: Iceland has the best score for child welfare AND the highest number of out-of-wedlock births (55%). So, the fact that a child is being raised by one parent is not necessarily a guarantee of a life of deprivation.

I do agree with you that male attitudes in the US about the value of children is abominable, a real culture of death. Unfortunately, there's no way to legislate maturity, responsibility or manhood.

Gina, I am sure that is not

Gina, I am sure that is not your real name, as no woman would blame a child's family for not “participate economically and fundamentally in the upbringing of the child." Your are a Republican Hack. The fact that poverty in the US has risen over the last 40 years due to "rippofflician and Demonocratic" policies reveals the lack of government action. When I grew up my mother stayed home a cared for myself and two brothers while my father worked, things were fine. Now, thanks to declining wages, higher individual taxes and the almost nonexistence corporate taxes and astronomical unemployment rates both parents MUST work to avoid their children falling into poverty. Even with two parents working families are unable to avoid deteriorating standards of living for the working poor.

Here, here, Lori! Once again

Here, here, Lori! Once again someone (Gina) is ignoring facts and stating beliefs! I think she needs to get out into the real world more and visit the millions of families (single parent or otherwise) who are struggling. Yeah, those lazy people who work 3 jobs (all "part time" - 30 hours or less - so there are no health benefits) and can still barely pay the rent and put food on the table, and will go to an early grave from overwork and stress.

What is happening in the US is not only shameful, it is insane.

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