United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on 14 April 2016 released Innocenti Report Card 13, titled Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries.
The report released in Paris presents an overview of inequalities in child well-being in 41 countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
It focuses on ‘bottom-end inequality’ – the gap between children at the bottom and those in the middle – and addresses the question ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’ in income, education, health and life satisfaction.
The Report Card asks the same underlying question as Report Card 9, which focused on inequality in child well-being, but uses the most recent data available and includes more countries.
Highlights of the report
• Denmark is at the top of the overall league table with the lowest inequality among children.
• Israel ranked lowest across all domains.
• Two of the world’s wealthiest countries, Japan and the United States, were positioned in the bottom third of the league table for income inequality. In both countries, the household income of a child in the 10th percentile is roughly 40 percent of that of a child in the middle of the income distribution.
• Only Spain and the United States improved in all four health indicators since 2002.
• Only four countries – Estonia, Ireland, Latvia and Poland – managed to lower education inequality while also allowing fewer children to fall below minimum proficiency standards.
• Among 10 countries where data on country of birth was collected 7 showed lower life satisfaction among migrant children.
• In 19 out of 41 countries covered by the data, more than 10 percent of children live in households with less than half the median income.
• Inequality in children’s self-reported health symptoms increased in almost all countries between 2002 and 2014, inequality in physical activity and poor diet decreased in a majority of countries.
• Bottom-end inequality has also narrowed in reading achievement in the majority of countries.
• When children rank their life satisfaction on a scale of 1 – 10 the median score is 8; however, children at the lower end of the distribution fall far behind their peers.
• In every country, girls aged 13 and 15 report lower life satisfaction than boys.
The Report Proposes
• The Innocenti Report proposes the following key areas for government action to strengthen child well-being:
• Protect the incomes of households with the poorest children.
• Improve the educational achievements of disadvantaged learners.
• Promote and support healthy lifestyles for all children.
• Take subjective well-being seriously.
• Place equity at the heart of child well-being agendas.
The report sends a clear reminder that the well-being of children in any country is not an inevitable outcome of individual circumstances or of the level of economic development but is shaped by policy choices.
The report says that across the OECD, the risks of poverty have been shifting from the elderly towards youth since the 1980s. These developments accentuate the need to monitor the well-being of the most disadvantaged children, but income inequality also has far-reaching consequences for society, harming educational attainment, key health outcomes and even economic growth. A concern with fairness and social justice requires us to consider whether some members of society are being left so far behind that it unfairly affects their lives both now and in the future.
UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti
The Office of Research – Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. It undertakes research on emerging or current issues in order to inform the strategic directions, policies and programmes of UNICEF and its partners, shape global debates on child rights and development, and inform the global research and policy agenda for all children, and particularly for the most vulnerable.
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What: Released by UNICEF
When: 14 April 2016