CONNECT
search advanced search
UNICEF Innocenti
Office of Research-Innocenti
search menu

Report Card 16: Your questions answered

Following the launch of our latest Report Card, Worlds of Influence, our Chief of Economic and Social Policy, Dominic Richardson, answers some of the questions asked during our policy panel discussion.

How does the Report Card impact progress towards achieving child-centred SDGs?

The Report Card brings into sharper relief the role of policies and how policies can mitigate the effects of national and global shocks on children, whatever they may be. COVID will inevitably impact our ability to meet the SDGs to some degree, so if policy makers use the Report Card as it’s designed to be used, they will reflect more carefully on the types of policies that protect children from the negative outcomes of the COVID crisis. In protecting children, they will also progress the SDGs.

 

“As we push towards improving numeracy and literacy states, it’s critically important that we don’t forget that there are other important skills that we want children to develop.”

 

How can we mainstream play into the way children learn & families engage with them?

Play is a very important way for children to learn all sorts of skills, like teamwork, communication, listening, and creativity. The Report Card shows that more time playing outside is linked to much higher levels of happiness, yet many children say that good play and leisure facilities are not available in their neighbourhoods. As we push towards improving numeracy and literacy, it’s critically important that we don’t forget that there are other important skills that we want children to develop. Although there are efforts to improve life skills, play is not commonly used as a medium to create or strengthen these skills.

There isn’t a set of measures for mainstreaming play that are common to all high-income countries. Instead, countries are drawing on a range of different interventions, like providing and protecting green spaces for children, offering out of school activities, helping children access amenities, and incorporating play into learning and development opportunities, particularly in early child development settings. We should bring child development, play, and ‘the fun of learning’ closer together. It benefits the child, it benefits their families, and it benefits society.

 

 

Is it possible to put more emphasis on social protection as a way of stimulating the economy?

It is perfectly possible and indeed desirable to do this. Social protection is not receiving the majority of COVID financial stimulus. Instead, most of the money is going to corporate welfare, like supporting businesses and the economy. What’s more, only a small proportion of what is spent on social protection goes directly to families with children. While there are no hard-set rules on how these things should be done, the more directly we can support the livelihoods of families and children, the better. There is no evidence from the 2008 global financial crisis that corporate welfare left us in a better position regarding child poverty and well-being, and yet we’re doing the same thing again.

 

What needs to be done to re-engage top political leaders on using data to track progress for children?

This question hangs on whether political leaders are disengaged now, or whether they were ever truly engaged. The history of high-income countries using data to track the progress of children is not exactly long, going back to around 2000, but the SDGs have improved this. The way to engage policy makers is to make them realise why these measures matter and what they can do with them. We need to make the case that children’s wellbeing should be a political priority. Picking the right indicators is important, as is the quality of data and the rationale for that indicator. We must ensure that the indicators are coherent and cover child well-being in a holistic way, and that no children are excluded. We must also explain how these indicators interact – achievement on one could impact achievement on another either positively or negatively. In the end, it is not just a question of data but also understanding of what really drives change.

 

“There should be no room for party politics in the achievement of children’s rights.”

 

There is strong evidence on the efficiency and pay-off of child-centred, joined up policies. What are the barriers within governments to using this model of policymaking?

While it is true that there is good evidence to support a portfolio of joined up policies for children as an effective and efficient way of promoting child wellbeing for all children, there are many barriers to making it happen. The first is making the case to policymakers so they don’t just see this as a cost or an infringement on the privacy of the family or others. There are politics around family policy and child policy which are ultimately unhelpful because there should be no room for party politics in the achievement of children’s rights. Any questions around whether a family should receive support based on certain attributes – be it unemployment, migrant status, same sex couples, etc - are an infringement of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We should not question whether children should have this support, but rather we should be talking about how to best deliver it.

The process of family policy reform is rationalised based on a limited number of things. You need to know why you’re doing it, how to do it, and what resources are required to do it. We should be supporting policymakers to make these decisions by answering these questions. The Report Card starts to answer the question of “why should I do it?” We need to continue the debate on how to do it and how to pay for it. Our job is to shed light on these things and continue to support the aspirations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by advocating for children’s wellbeing and by providing the requisite policy advice to make it happen.

 

Explore our Worlds of Influence microsite. Read the full Report Card. Watch our policy panel discussion on understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries.

Related Articles

World's richest countries grappling with children’s reading and math skills, mental well-being and obesity
Article Article

World's richest countries grappling with children’s reading and math skills, mental well-being and obesity

Innocenti Report Card 16 ranks 41 OECD and EU countries on child well-being using 6 indicators in 3 domains. In mental well-being the report looks at life satisfaction and suicide rates; in physical health, child mortality and obesity; and in skills, reading and math proficiency and making friends. FLORENCE/NEW YORK, 3 September 2020 – Suicide, unhappiness, obesity and poor social and academic skills have become far-too-common features of childhood in high-income countries, according to the latest Report Card issued today by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti.UNICEF’s Report Card Series – now running for 20 years – uses comparable national data to rank EU and OECD countries on childhood. Worlds of Influence: Understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries uses pre-COVID-19 data and features a league table according to children’s mental and physical health and academic and social skill-set. Based on these indicators the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway rank as the top three places to be a child among wealthy countries.“Many of the world’s richest countries – which have the resources they need to provide good childhoods for all – are failing children,” said Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF Innocenti. “Unless governments take rapid and decisive action to protect child wellb-eing as part of their pandemic responses, we can continue to expect soaring child poverty rates, deteriorating mental and physical health, and a deepening skill divide among children. COVID-19 related support for families and children are woefully inadequate. More must be done to provide children with a safe and happy childhood – now.” Key findings from the Report CardMental health: In most countries, less than four-fifths of children report being satisfied with their lives. Turkey has the lowest rate of life satisfaction at 53 per cent, followed by Japan and the United Kingdom. Children who have less supportive families and those who are bullied have significantly poorer mental health. Lithuania has the highest rate of adolescent suicide – a leading cause of death among 15-19-year olds in rich countries – followed by New Zealand and Estonia. Physical health: Obesity and overweight rates among children have increased in recent years. Around 1 in 3 children across all countries are either obese or overweight, with rates in Southern Europe also sharply increasing. In more than a quarter of rich countries child mortality is still above 1 per 1,000.Skills: On average 40 per cent of children across all OECD and EU countries do not have basic reading and mathematics skills by age 15. Children in Bulgaria, Romania and Chile are the least proficient in these skills. Estonia, Ireland and Finland the most proficient. In most countries, at least 1 in 5 children lack confidence in their social skills to make new friends. Children in Chile, Japan and Iceland are the least confident in this area. The report also contains data on clear areas of progress in child well-being. On average, 95 per cent of pre-school aged children are now enrolled in organized learning programmes, and the number of young people aged 15-19 not in education, employment or training has declined in 30 out of 37 countries. Yet, these important gains are at risk of falling back due to the impact of COVID-19. Countries are also ranked based on their policies that support child well-being and other factors including the economy, society and environment. Norway, Iceland and Finland have the highest-ranking policies and context to support child well-being. On average, countries spend less than 3 per cent of their GDP on family and child policies.“In times of crisis and calm, families need supportive governments and workplaces in order to raise the next generation of happy and healthy citizens,” said Fayaz King, Deputy Executive Director at UNICEF. “An investment in children is a direct investment in our future.”Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, in the first half of 2020 most of the countries covered in the report kept schools closed for more than 100 days while strict stay-at-home policies were also implemented[1]. The report notes that loss of family members and friends, anxiety, stay-at-home restrictions, lack of support, school closures, the balancing of work and family life, poor access to healthcare, combined with the economic loss caused by the pandemic are catastrophic for children’s well-being, affecting their mental and physical health, and their development. For more information about the importance of children's relationships and activities to their well-being - the World of the Child - go to Section 3 of Innocenti Report card 16.  Before the COVID-19 outbreak the average relative child poverty rate across the 41 countries was 20 per cent. With GDP expected to fall over a two-year period in almost all of these countries[2], unless governments take immediate remedial actions child poverty will rise.“As the economic, educational and social fallout of the pandemic continues to take hold, without concerted effort, there will be a worsening, devastating impact on the well-being of today’s children, their families and the societies they live in,” said Olsson. “But these risks do not have to become the reality, if governments take decisive action now to protect children’s well-being.”On the basis of the report and these recent developments UNICEF is calling for the following steps to protect and improve child well-being:Take decisive action to reduce income inequality and poverty and ensure that all children have access to the resources they need. Rapidly address the serious gap in mental health services for children and adolescents.Expand family-friendly policies to improve work-family balance, especially access to high-quality, flexible and affordable early-years childcare.Strengthen efforts to protect children from preventable diseases, including reversing recent falls in measles immunization. Improve COVID-19 policies that support families with children and ensure budgets that support child well-being are protected entirely from austerity measures.####Notes to editors:Worlds of Influence builds on previous rankings of child well-being in Report Cards 11 (2013) and 7 (2007) to provide a more comprehensive view of well-being that assesses children’s own actions and relationships, the networks and resources available to their caregivers as well as national policies and context. Visit the report microsite and download the full report: http://www.unicef-irc.org/child-well-being-report-card-16Launch event policy panel discussion Download press kit, multi-media materials and digital assets [1]https://ourworldindata.org/policy-responses-covid[2] http://www.oecd.org/economic-outlook/june-2020/ 
Worlds of Influence: Understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries
Article Article

Worlds of Influence: Understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries

Research Projects

Children in high income countries
Research Project Research Project

Children in high income countries

In keeping with UNICEF's universal mandate for children in every country, the Innocenti Report Card series focuses on the well-being of children in high income countries. Each Report Card publication includes league tables ranking OECD and EU countries according to the latest available comparative data. Report Cards are designed to appeal to a wide audience while maintaining academic rigour.Innocenti Report Cards are valuable advocacy tools for bringing the well-being of children and their families in industrialized countries to the attention of the public, policy decision makers and the news media. UNICEF Innocenti's Report Card 15, An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries, presents a comprehensive assessment of current levels of inequalities of educational opportunity in rich countries, using the best and most up-to-date data available. It also discusses what can be done to reduce these inequalities.  The report establishes a point of departure for reviewing progress towards minimising educational inequality for children in rich countries. It compares 41 countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).Established in 2000, the Innocenti Report Card series has analyzed a wide variety of themes in the living conditions of children and adolescents. The series constitutes one of UNICEF’s major efforts to provide a set of child well-being monitoring instruments focused on rich economies. It has also provided a regular high-profile platform for improved evidence based efforts for the most deprived children in these countries.

Publications

Worlds of Influence: Understanding What Shapes Child Well-being in Rich Countries
Publication Publication

Worlds of Influence: Understanding What Shapes Child Well-being in Rich Countries

A new look at children from the world’s richest countries offers a mixed picture of their health, skills and happiness. For far too many, issues such as poverty, exclusion and pollution threaten their mental well-being, physical health and opportunities to develop skills. Even countries with good social, economic and environmental conditions are a long way from meeting the targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Focused and accelerated action is needed if these goals are to be met. The evidence from 41 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) countries tells its own story: from children’s chances of survival, growth and protection, to whether they are learning and feel listened to, to whether their parents have the support and resources to give their children the best chance for a healthy, happy childhood. This report reveals children’s experiences against the backdrop of their country’s policies and social, educational, economic and environmental contexts.
Des Mondes d'Influence: Comprendre ce qui détermine le bien-être des enfants dans les pays riches
Publication Publication

Des Mondes d'Influence: Comprendre ce qui détermine le bien-être des enfants dans les pays riches

Analyser la situation des enfants dans les pays les plus riches du monde sous un nouvel angle offre une image mitigée de leur santé, de leurs compétences et de leur bonheur. Pour beaucoup trop d’entre eux, des problèmes tels que la pauvreté, l’exclusion et la pollution font peser une menace sur leur bien-être mental, leur santé physique et leurs chances d’acquérir des compétences. Même des pays qui offrent de bonnes conditions sociales, économiques et environnementales sont loin d’atteindre les objectifs fixés par le Programme de développement durable à l’horizon 2030. Pour réaliser ces objectifs, des mesures ciblées et accélérées sont nécessaires. Les données de 41 pays de l’Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques (OCDE) et de l’Union européenne (UE) parlent d’elles-mêmes, qu’il s’agisse des chances de survie, de croissance et de protection des enfants, de la question de savoir s’ils apprennent et se sentent écoutés, ou de celle de savoir si leurs parents disposent du soutien et des moyens nécessaires pour donner à leurs enfants toutes les chances de mener une enfance équilibrée et heureuse. Ce rapport révèle l’expérience des enfants face aux politiques publiques et à la conjoncture sociale, éducative, économique et environnementale de leurs pays respectifs.
Mundos de Influencia:¿Cuáles son los determinantes del bienestar infantil en los países ricos?
Publication Publication

Mundos de Influencia:¿Cuáles son los determinantes del bienestar infantil en los países ricos?

Una nueva mirada a los niños de los países más ricos del mundo presenta un panorama heterogéneo en cuando a su salud, aptitudes y felicidad. Demasiados ven amenazados su bienestar mental, salud física y oportunidades para el desarrollo de aptitudes por problemas como la pobreza, la exclusión y la contaminación. Incluso los países que disfrutan de una buena situación social, económica y ambiental están muy lejos de cumplir las metas establecidas en la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible. Para cumplir tales objetivos se requieren medidas específicas y aceleradas. Las pruebas recabadas en 41 países de la Organización de Cooperación y Desarrollo Económicos (OCDE) y la Unión Europea relatan una historia propia: cuáles son las oportunidades de supervivencia, crecimiento y protección de los niños; si están aprendiendo y se los escucha; si sus progenitores cuentan con apoyo y recursos para ofrecer a sus hijos la posibilidad de vivir una infancia sana y feliz. En este informe se plasman experiencias infantiles con el trasfondo de las políticas nacionales y diversos contextos sociales, educativos, económicos y ambientales.
Sfere di Influenza: Un'analisi dei fattori che condizionano il benessere dei bambini nei paesi ricchi
Publication Publication

Sfere di Influenza: Un'analisi dei fattori che condizionano il benessere dei bambini nei paesi ricchi

Un nuovo sguardo alla situazione dei bambini nei paesi più ricchi del mondo rivela uno scenario misto in termini di salute, competenze e felicità. Troppi problemi, come la povertà, l'esclusione e l'inquinamento, minacciano il loro benessere psicofisico e la possibilità di sviluppare le proprie abilità. Anche i paesi con condizioni sociali, economiche e ambientali favorevoli sono ben lontani dal raggiungere gli obiettivi stabiliti nell'Agenda 2030 per lo sviluppo sostenibile. Per realizzare tali obiettivi, è necessaria un'azione rapida e mirata. I dati relativi a 41 Paesi dell'Organizzazione per la cooperazione e lo sviluppo economico (OCSE) e l'Unione europea tracciano un quadro chiaro della probabilità di bambini e adolescenti di sopravvivere e crescere, di ricevere tutela, istruzione e ascolto, e della misura in cui i genitori sono in grado di fornire sostegno e risorse per garantire loro le migliori possibilità di vivere un'infanzia sana e felice. Questo studio rivela le esperienze dei bambini alla luce delle politiche e del contesto sociale, educativo, economico e ambientale dei rispettivi paesi.