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Children in high income countries

Children in high income countries

UNICEF has a universal mandate for children in every country. For the past 20 years, the Office for Research has contributed to this mandate through its Innocenti Report Card series. The Report Cards focus on the well-being of children in high-income countries. They have been at the forefront of informing and influencing debates about children’s well-being in these countries.

In recent years, the office has also developed other research on children in high-income countries. This has included reports on:

During 2021, we will be publishing reports on:

  • The accessibility, affordability, and quality of childcare
  • Children’s participation rights
  • Research to inform the European Union Child Guarantee
  • Children’s experiences and views of COVID-19 in Italy.

Publications

Supporting Families and Children Beyond COVID-19: Social protection in high-income countries
Publication Publication

Supporting Families and Children Beyond COVID-19: Social protection in high-income countries

COVID-19 constitutes the greatest crisis that high-income countries have seen in many generations. While many high-income countries experienced the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, or have had national recessions, the COVID-19 pandemic is much more than that. COVID-19 is a social and economic crisis, sparked by a protracted health crisis. High-income countries have very limited experience of dealing with health crises, having their health and human services stretched beyond capacity, restricting the travel of their populations or having to close workplaces and schools – let alone experience of all of these things combined. These unique conditions create new and serious challenges for the economies and societies of all high-income countries. As these challenges evolve, children – as dependants – are among those at greatest risk of seeing their living standards fall and their personal well-being decline. This new UNICEF Innocenti report explores how the social and economic impact of the pandemic is likely to affect children; the initial government responses to the crisis; and how future public policies could be optimized to better support children.
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.
Are the world’s richest countries family friendly? Policy in the OECD and EU
Publication Publication

Are the world’s richest countries family friendly? Policy in the OECD and EU

Children get a better start in life and parents are better able to balance work and home commitments in countries that have family-friendly policies. These include paid parental leave, support for breastfeeding and affordable, high-quality childcare and preschool education. This report looks at family-friendly policies in 41 high- and middle-income countries using four country-level indicators: the duration of paid leave available to mothers; the duration of paid leave reserved specifically for fathers; the share of children below the age of three in childcare centres; and the share of children between the age of three and compulsory school age in childcare or preschool centres. Sweden, Norway and Iceland are the three most family-friendly countries for which we have complete data. Cyprus, Greece and Switzerland occupy the bottom three places. Ten of the 41 countries do not have sufficient data on childcare enrolment to be ranked in our league table. There is not enough up-to-date information available for us to compare across countries the quality of childcare centres or breastfeeding rates and policies. There is scope for the world’s richest countries to improve their family policies and collect better data.
An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children's Education in Rich Countries
Publication Publication

An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children's Education in Rich Countries

In the world’s richest countries, some children do worse at school than others because of circumstances beyond their control, such as where they were born, the language they speak or their parents’ occupations. These children enter the education system at a disadvantage and can drop further behind if educational policies and practices reinforce, rather than reduce, the gap between them and their peers. These types of inequality are unjust. Not all children have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential, to pursue their interests and to develop their talents and skills. This has social and economic costs. This report focuses on educational inequalities in 41 of the world’s richest countries, all of which are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and/or the European Union (EU). Using the most recent data available, it examines inequalities across childhood – from access to preschool to expectations of post-secondary education – and explores in depth the relationships between educational inequality and factors such as parents’ occupations, migration background, the child’s gender and school characteristics. The key feature of the report is the league table, which summarizes the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary school and secondary school levels. The indicator of inequality at the preschool level is the percentage of students enrolled in organized learning one year before the official age of primary school entry. The indicator for both primary school (Grade 4, around age 10) and secondary school (age 15) is the gap in reading scores between the lowest- and highest-performing students.
Measuring Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries
Publication Publication

Measuring Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries

There is growing recognition among international organizations, scholars and policymakers that education systems must produce equitable outcomes, but there is far less consensus on what this means in practice. This paper analyses differences in inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity in educational achievement among primary and secondary schoolchildren across 38 countries of the European Union (EU) and/or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The analysis focuses on reading achievement, drawing on data from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). We use several measures to operationalize the two concepts of inequality in education. Our results show that inequality of outcome does not necessarily go hand in hand with inequality of opportunity. These two concepts lead to measures that produce very different country rankings. We argue that information on both inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity is necessary for a better understanding of equity in children’s education.
Children of Austerity: Impact of the Great Recession on Child Poverty in Rich Countries
Publication Publication

Children of Austerity: Impact of the Great Recession on Child Poverty in Rich Countries

The 2008 financial crisis triggered the worst global recession since the Great Depression. Many OECD countries responded to the crisis by reducing social spending. Through 11 diverse country case studies (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States), this volume describes the evolution of child poverty and material well-being during the crisis, and links these outcomes with the responses by governments. The analysis underlines that countries with fragmented social protection systems were less able to protect the incomes of households with children at the time when unemployment soared. In contrast, countries with more comprehensive social protection cushioned the impact of the crisis on households with children, especially if they had implemented fiscal stimulus packages at the onset of the crisis. Although the macroeconomic 'shock' itself and the starting positions differed greatly across countries, while the responses by governments covered a very wide range of policy levers and varied with their circumstances, cuts in social spending and tax increases often played a major role in the impact that the crisis had on the living standards of families and children.
Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries
Publication Publication

Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries

This Report Card offers an assessment of child well-being in the context of sustainable development across 41 countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Comparing Child-focused SDGs in High-income Countries: Indicator development and overview
Publication Publication

Comparing Child-focused SDGs in High-income Countries: Indicator development and overview

The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aim to build on the achievements made under the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by broadening their scope and building upon a consultative process. The MDGs contributed to substantial social progress in eight key areas: poverty; education; gender equality; child mortality; maternal health; disease; the environment; and global partnership. The SDGs not only include a greater number of development goals than the MDGs, but are also global in focus, including advanced economies for the first time. This paper draws attention to the main challenges the 2030 Agenda presents for rich countries, by highlighting a set of critical child specific indicators, evaluating countries’ progress towards meeting the Goals, and highlighting gaps in existing data. The paper will inform UNICEFs Report Card 14, Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries.
Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe
Publication Publication

Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe

Target 2.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for an end to hunger, in all its forms, by 2030. Measuring food security among children under age 5, who represent a quarter of the world’s population, remains a challenge that is largely unfeasible for current global monitoring systems. The SDG framework has agreed to use the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) to measure moderate and severe food insecurity. The FIES is an experience-based metric that reports food-related behaviours on the inability to access food due to resource constraints. We present the first global estimates of the share and number of children below age 15, who live with a respondent who is food insecure.
Child-centred Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in High-income Countries: Conceptual issues and monitoring approaches
Publication Publication

Child-centred Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in High-income Countries: Conceptual issues and monitoring approaches

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was agreed upon globally through a long political process. By ratifying its Declaration, high-income countries became accountable participants in the development process while retaining their obligations as donors. Although few of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are explicitly child-focused, children are mentioned in many of the 167 targets. Drawing on a well recognized socio-ecological model (SEM) of child development and a life course perspective, this paper proposes an analytical framework to help navigate through the SDG targets based on their relevance to child well-being. The application of this framework in thinking through policy options illustrates the interdependence of SDGs and their targets within a sector (vertically) and across the 17 Goals (horizontally). A five-step process for choosing measurable SDG indicators links the proposed analytical framework with the challenges of SDG monitoring. The paper contributes to debates on the implications of the SDGs for children by facilitating their adaptation to the national context through a ‘child lens’. The proposed analytical approach helps to articulate a context-specific theory of change with a focus on human development outcomes, so that public investments inspired by the SDGs bring tangible results for children.
Sustainable Development Goal 1.2: Multidimensional child poverty in the European Union
Publication Publication

Sustainable Development Goal 1.2: Multidimensional child poverty in the European Union

The new universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for “reducing at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions” by 2030.
Growing Inequality and Unequal Opportunities in Rich Countries
Publication Publication

Growing Inequality and Unequal Opportunities in Rich Countries

Migration and Inequality: Making policies inclusive for every child
Publication Publication

Migration and Inequality: Making policies inclusive for every child

Drawing on Europe’s experience, this brief provides a cross-country comparative overview of inequality affecting children in the migration pathway, who are often described as 'children on the move'. Following a brief overview of the policy and practice in relation to various categories of refugee and migration children in Europe, it reflects on the performance of the countries with regard to Target 10.7 of the SDG.
Not Refugee Children, Not Migrant Children, But Children First: Lack of a systematic and integrated approach
Publication Publication

Not Refugee Children, Not Migrant Children, But Children First: Lack of a systematic and integrated approach

This brief takes a deep dive in the semantics and conceptual issues in the children and migration discourse, and highlights some of the key implementation gaps. It offers a summary of the risks, vulnerabilities and protection needs of children as refugees and migration in Europe. Using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the normative frameworks, this brief also emphasizes how the voices of children in migration pathway must be heard and respected.
Education for All? Measuring inequality of educational outcomes among 15-year-olds across 39 industrialized nations
Publication Publication

Education for All? Measuring inequality of educational outcomes among 15-year-olds across 39 industrialized nations

Drawing on PISA 2012 data and its earlier rounds, this paper explores alternative approaches to measuring educational inequality at the ‘bottom-end’ of educational distribution within the cross-national context.
Bottom-end Inequality: Are children with an immigrant background at a disadvantage?
Publication Publication

Bottom-end Inequality: Are children with an immigrant background at a disadvantage?

The extent to which the socio-demographic composition of child populations drives inequality in child well-being depends on which children are most likely to do much worse than their peers. In this Research Brief we present evidence on the socio-economic vulnerability of immigrant children and highlight the relative contribution of immigrant background to the risks of falling behind in household income, education, health and life satisfaction.
Child Poverty Dynamics and Income Mobility in Europe
Publication Publication

Child Poverty Dynamics and Income Mobility in Europe

While a long-standing literature analyses cross-country variation in the incidence of child poverty in rich countries in a single year, less is known about children’s individual movements into and out of low household income over a period of time. Using longitudinal data from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), the present study addresses this gap by analysing both income mobility and child poverty dynamics in the EU during the recent economic crisis.
Children in the Bottom of Income Distribution in Europe: Risks and composition
Publication Publication

Children in the Bottom of Income Distribution in Europe: Risks and composition

In the context of increasing child poverty, deprivation rates and the relative child income gap, and with the most economically vulnerable children hit extensively by the crisis, this paper sets out to understand who are the most disadvantaged children.
Falling Behind: Socio-demographic profiles of educationally disadvantaged youth. Evidence from PISA 2000-2012
Publication Publication

Falling Behind: Socio-demographic profiles of educationally disadvantaged youth. Evidence from PISA 2000-2012

Drawing on the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2000 to 2012 data, this paper examines the risk factors of low achievement, defined here as scoring below the 10th percentile of the distribution, and their evolution over time, across 39 industrialized nations.
Family Affluence and Inequality in Adolescent Health and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from the HBSC study 2002-2014
Publication Publication

Family Affluence and Inequality in Adolescent Health and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from the HBSC study 2002-2014

A large body of literature has established socio-economic gradients in adolescent health, but few studies have investigated the extent to which these gradients are associated with very poor health outcomes. The current analysis examined the extent to which the socio-economic background of adolescents relates to very poor self-reported health and well-being (the so-called ’bottom end’).
Income Inequality among Children in Europe 2008–2013
Publication Publication

Income Inequality among Children in Europe 2008–2013

This paper presents results on the levels of bottom-end inequality in children’s incomes in 31 European countries in 2013 and traces the evolution of this measure since 2008. The relative income gap worsened in 20 of the 31 European countries between 2008 and 2013.
Inequalities in Adolescent Health and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study
Publication Publication

Inequalities in Adolescent Health and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study

This study analyses variation in the extent of inequality in the lower half of the distribution in five indicators of adolescent health and well-being – health symptoms, physical activity, healthy eating, unhealthy eating, and life satisfaction – across EU and/or OECD countries that took part in the latest cycle of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study.
Poverty and Children’s Cognitive Trajectories: Evidence from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study
Publication Publication

Poverty and Children’s Cognitive Trajectories: Evidence from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study

Existing evidence is inconclusive on whether a socio-economic gradient in children’s cognitive ability widens, narrows or remains stable over time and there is little research on the extent of ‘cognitive mobility’ of children who had a poor start in life compared to their peers. Using data from five sweeps of the United Kingdom (UK) Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) at the ages of 9 months, 3 years, 5 years, 7 years and 11 years, this paper explores the cognitive ability trajectory of children in the bottom decile of the distribution at a given age.
Why Income Inequalities Matter for Young People’s Health: A look at the evidence
Publication Publication

Why Income Inequalities Matter for Young People’s Health: A look at the evidence

Although child and adolescent inequalities are still less understood than those of adults, we have made progress in understanding the pathways that lead to negative outcomes and the limitations of some ‘adult-specific’ indicators as proxies of young people’s health and well-being. This paper aims to summarise relevant knowledge on the socio-economic causes of health inequalities in children.
Fairness for Children. A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries
Publication Publication

Fairness for Children. A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries

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).
Early-life Exposure to Income Inequality and Adolescent Health and Well-being: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study
Publication Publication

Early-life Exposure to Income Inequality and Adolescent Health and Well-being: Evidence from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study

Social inequalities in children’s health and well-being relate to their socioeconomic position (SEP) in society. A large body of empirical evidence shows that growing up in economically disadvantaged conditions worsens health, limits academic achievement, and shortens lifespans. This paper examines lagged and contemporaneous associations between national income inequality and health and well-being during adolescence.
Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries
Publication Publication

Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries

This report offers multiple and detailed perspectives on how the recession has affected children in the developed world. Official data have been used to rank the impact on children for countries in the European Union (EU) and/or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For each country, the extent and character of the crisis’s impact on children has been shaped by the depth of the recession, pre-existing economic conditions, the strength of the social safety net and, most importantly, policy responses.
Child Well-being in  Rich Countries: Comparing Japan
Publication Publication

Child Well-being in Rich Countries: Comparing Japan

This report is a Japanese version of the UNICEF Innocenti Report Card 11. In the original report, Japan was not included in the league table of child well-being because data on a number of indicators were missing.
Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview
Publication Publication

Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview

The Report card considers five dimensions of children’s lives: material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviours and risks, and housing and environment. In total, 26 internationally comparable indicators have been included in the overview. The Report updates and refines the first UNICEF overview of child well-being published in 2007 (Report Card 7 ). Changes in child well-being over the first decade of the 2000s are examined.
Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world's rich countries
Publication Publication

Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world's rich countries

This report sets out the latest internationally comparable data on child deprivation and relative child poverty. Taken together, these two different measures offer the best currently available picture of child poverty across the world's wealthiest nations.
The Children Left Behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world's rich countries
Publication Publication

The Children Left Behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world's rich countries

This Report Card presents a first overview of inequalities in child well-being for 24 of the world’s richest countries. Three dimensions of inequality are examined: material well-being, education, and health. In each case and for each country, the question asked is ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’ Bringing in data from the majority of OECD countries, the report attempts to show which of them are allowing children to fall behind by more than is necessary in education, health and material well-being, using the best performing countries as a minimum standard for what can be achieved.
The Child Care Transition: A league table of early childhood education and care in economically advanced countries
Publication Publication

The Child Care Transition: A league table of early childhood education and care in economically advanced countries

A great change is coming over childhood in the world's richest countries. Today's rising generation is the first in which a majority are spending a large part of early childhood in some form of out-of-home child care. At the same time, neuroscientific research is demonstrating that loving, stable, secure, and stimulating relationships with caregivers in the earliest months and years of life are critical for every aspect of a child’s development. Taken together, these two developments confront public and policymakers in OECD countries with urgent questions. Whether the child care transition will represent an advance or a setback for today's children and tomorrow's world will depend on the response.
Child Poverty in Perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries
Publication Publication

Child Poverty in Perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries

This report builds and expands upon the analyses of Report Card No. 6 which considered relative income poverty affecting children and policies to mitigate it. Report Card 7 provides a pioneering, comprehensive picture of child well being through the consideration of six dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, family and peer relationships, subjective well-being, behaviours and lifestyles informed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and relevant academic literature.
Child Poverty in Rich Countries 2005
Publication Publication

Child Poverty in Rich Countries 2005

The proportion of children living in poverty has risen in a majority of the world's developed economies. No matter which of the commonly-used poverty measures is applied, the situation of children is seen to have deteriorated over the last decade. This publication is the sixth in a series of Innocenti Report Cards designed to monitor and compare the performance of the OECD countries in meeting the needs of their children.
A League Table of Child Maltreatment Deaths in Rich Nations
Publication Publication

A League Table of Child Maltreatment Deaths in Rich Nations

In the industrialized world, approximately 3,500 children die every year at the hands of those who should be caring for them. Many more live on with injuries - both physical and emotional. This fifth Report Card analyses and compares child abuse data from the OECD nations and asks why some countries have a better record than others.
A League Table of Educational Disadvantage in Rich Nations
Publication Publication

A League Table of Educational Disadvantage in Rich Nations

This new report from the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre considers the effectiveness of public education systems across the rich nations of the industrialised world. The Report Card takes an overview of several well-respected cross-national surveys into educational performance in an effort to present a big picture of the extent of educational disadvantage in OECD member countries.
A League Table of Teenage Births in Rich Nations
Publication Publication

A League Table of Teenage Births in Rich Nations

The third Innocenti Report Card presents the most up-to-date and comprehensive survey so far of teenage birth rates in the industrialized world. And it attempts at least a partial analysis of why some countries have teenage birth rates that are ten or even fifteen times higher than others.
A League Table of Child Deaths by Injury in Rich Nations
Publication Publication

A League Table of Child Deaths by Injury in Rich Nations

In every one of the world's wealthier nations, injury is now the leading killer of children aged over one. This second Report Card presents, for the first time, a standardized league table ranking 26 of the world's industrialized nations according to their injury death rates for children aged 1 to 14.
A League Table of Child Poverty in Rich Nations
Publication Publication

A League Table of Child Poverty in Rich Nations

The persistence of child poverty in rich countries undermines both equality of opportunity and commonality of values. It therefore confronts the industrialized world with a test both of its ideals and of its capacity to resolve many of its most intractable social problems. This new research asks what can be learned about the causes of child poverty and examines the policies that have contributed to the success of lower rates in some countries.

Journal Articles

Comparing inequality in adolescents’ reading achievement across 37 countries and over time: outcomes versus opportunities
Journal Article Journal Article

Comparing inequality in adolescents’ reading achievement across 37 countries and over time: outcomes versus opportunities

This paper assesses two approaches to the measurement of educational inequality in international comparisons between countries and over time. We analyse reading literacy performance of 15-year-old students using data from PISA 2009 and 2015 for 37 EU and OECD countries. We show that inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity do not necessarily co-vary; they can go in opposite directions both across countries and over time. Our results suggest that indicators of variation in educational outcomes are more suitable to the types of problems that affect international comparisons of educational achievement than the more common approach of measuring of inequality of opportunity.
Household income and sticky floors in children’s cognitive development: Evidence from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study
Journal Article Journal Article

Household income and sticky floors in children’s cognitive development: Evidence from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study

While there is a rich literature on the socio-economic gaps in children’s average cognitive test scores in the United Kingdom, there is less evidence on the differences in children’s transitions along the ability distribution. Using data from five sweeps of the UK Millennium Cohort Study at the ages of 9 months, 3 years, 5 years, 7 years and 11 years, this paper analyses the role of household income, relative to other socio-economic factors, in influencing children’s chances of moving up or down the age-specific cognitive ability distribution as they grow older. Descriptive findings indicate a high level of variability between ages 3 and 11, but children from income-poor households are more likely to get trapped in the bottom of the age-specific cognitive ability distribution. Event history analysis shows that household income protects children from falling into the lowest-performing group without necessarily helping existing low performers improve. In contrast, parental education both protects children from slipping into low performance and helps them move up if they fall into it. While this is, perhaps, disheartening because household income is more amenable to policy than parental education, there is potential for income-enhancing policies to protect children from scoring poorly in the first place.
The outcomes of the crisis for pensioners and children
Journal Article Journal Article

The outcomes of the crisis for pensioners and children

When the final review is written on the impact of the global financial crisis that began in 2007 it will conclude that the main beneficiaries were pensioners and the main victims have been children. That final review is still some way off: economic growth is still tentative; most European Union countries are mired in deficit; austerity (or in the words preferred by the European Commission “fiscal consolidation”) rules. We are not the first to point to this phenomenon. A study of the short-term impact of the Great Recession (up to 2011) on household incomes by Jenkins et al (2013) using six country case studies (Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the UK and the USA) found greater increases or slower declines in poverty among children than among the elderly. Hills et al. (2014) analysed the distributional impact of tax and benefit reforms over the period 2001-2011 in seven diverse EU countries: (Hills et al., 2014). The study showed that, on the whole, policy changes tended to be more favourable to pensioners than children. But it is worth pointing out that very little attention has been paid to this evident unfairness. Analysts of social policy seem reluctant to trade the interest of children against the interest of pensioners. After all, they might argue, both groups are vulnerable and may take the view that more important than horizontal equity is vertical equity – inequality has also been increasing. Even NGOs with interests in children and child poverty seem reluctant to draw the contrast. An honourable exception was the UNICEF (2014) Innocenti Report Card 12 which compared changes in the under 18 and 65-plus anchored poverty rates 2008-2012 and found that the difference in difference had moved in favour of pensioners in every country of the EU except Poland, Switzerland and Germany. We shall repeat and update that analysis. It is particularly surprising that the European Commission has not paid more attention to this trend given its emphasis on social investment. Protecting pensioners more than children seems the reverse of what one might expect from a social investment strategy, especially given the proven costs of child poverty (Hirsch 2014).
Child Poverty in the European Union: the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis Approach (EU-MODA)
Journal Article Journal Article

Child Poverty in the European Union: the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis Approach (EU-MODA)

Poverty has serious consequences for children’s well-being as well as for their achievements in adult life. The Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis for the European Union (EU-MODA) compares the living conditions of children across the EU member states. Rooted in the established multidimensional poverty measurement tradition, EU-MODA contributes to it by using the international framework of child rights to inform the construction of indicators and dimensions essential to children’s material well-being, taking into account the needs of children at various stages of their life cycle. The study adds to the literature on monetary child poverty and material deprivation in the EU by analysing several age-specific and rights-based dimensions of child deprivation individually and simultaneously, constructing multidimensional deprivation indices, and studying the overlaps between monetary poverty and multidimensional deprivation. The paper demonstrates the application of the EU-MODA methodology to three diverse countries: Finland, Romania and the United Kingdom. The analysis uses data from the ad hoc material deprivation module of the EU-SILC 2009 because it provides comparable micro-data for EU member states and contains child-specific deprivation indicators.
Perceptions of the Economic Crisis in Europe: Do Adults in Households with Children Feel a Greater Impact?
Journal Article Journal Article

Perceptions of the Economic Crisis in Europe: Do Adults in Households with Children Feel a Greater Impact?

More than 5 years since the outbreak of the global financial crisis, a flurry of evidence is emerging on the effects of the ensuing economic downturn on unemployment and poverty rates in rich countries, but less is known about cross-country differences in subjective assessments of the crisis and whether adults in households with children were affected to a greater extent. This paper investigates differences in the perceived impact of the economic crisis between adults in households with and without children in 17 European countries, using data from the Life in Transition Survey 2010 in a multilevel modelling framework. It also explores differences in the coping strategies that households adopted to deal with the decline in income or economic activity. Everything else being equal, perceptions of the crisis were more widespread in countries with higher rates of child poverty, lower economic growth and lower GDP per capita. Across countries, perceptions of the crisis closely trailed subjective indicators of financial difficulties from other international surveys conducted in 2010. Adults in households with children were more likely to report an impact of the crisis, with larger differences in countries with higher rates of monetary child poverty. Adults in households with children also adopted a greater variety of coping strategies than the rest, prioritizing expenditure on basic necessities, while cutting back on luxuries and holidays. Nevertheless, many still reported reduced consumption of staple foods as a result of economic difficulties.
Unemployment, social protection spending and child poverty in the European Union during the Great Recession
Journal Article Journal Article

Unemployment, social protection spending and child poverty in the European Union during the Great Recession

The 2008 financial crisis triggered the first contraction of the world economy in the post-war era. This article investigates the effect of the Great Recession on child poverty across the EU-27 plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland and studies the extent to which social protection spending may have softened the negative impact of the economic crisis on children. While the risks of child poverty are substantially higher in countries with higher rates of working-age unemployment, suggesting a significant impact of the Great Recession on household incomes via the labour market, the study finds evidence for social protection spending cushioning the blow of the crisis at least to some extent. Children were significantly less likely to be poor in countries with higher levels of social protection spending in 2008–2013, even after controlling for the socio-demographic structure of the population, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and the working-age unemployment rate. The poverty-dampening contextual effect of social spending was greater for the poverty risks of children in very low work intensity families and large families. The study uses two complementary thresholds of income poverty, both based on 60 percent of the national median: a relative poverty line and a threshold anchored in 2008. Although the choice of a poverty line makes a difference to aggregate child poverty rates, individual-level risks of a child being poor associated with a range of household-level characteristics are similar for the two poverty lines.

News & Commentary

The why and how of measuring sustainable development goals for children in high income countries
Article Article

The why and how of measuring sustainable development goals for children in high income countries

(15 June 2017) For the 14th edition of the Innocenti Report Card – a nearly annual publication ranking the high income countries of the world on a topical aspect of child well-being – our research team has chosen to take on a set of sizable challenges. We are publishing here, in full, the introduction of the Report to provide an accessible explanation of how this edition came to be. (Download the full report in English, French, Spanish or Italian here)This Report Card offers an assessment of child well-being in the context of sustainable development across 41 countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This group includes both high- and middle-income economies, but here we refer to them all as ‘high-income countries’ – or ‘rich countries’, for convenience. The concept of child well-being is rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) but the Agenda for Sustainable Development adds new dimensions. Progress across all these dimensions will be vital to children, and advanced economies will therefore need to monitor the situation of children and young people both nationally and globally. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the international community in 2015 represent an ambitious effort to set a global agenda for development that is both equitable and sustainable, in social, economic and environmental terms. The earlier Millennium development Goals (MDGs) prioritized the reduction of poverty, as well as progress in related social indicators. The 17 goals of the SDGs add to this a series of outcomes associated with inequality, economic development, the environment and climate change, as well as peace and security. In contrast to the MDGs, which primarily applied to low- and middle income countries, the ambitious agenda of the SDGs is of necessity universal; it thus applies to rich countries, as well as poor.The stronger focus of the SDGs on equitable development and on leaving no one behind also demands attention to inequalities along multiple dimensions – of income and wealth, health and educational opportunity, as well as voice and political participation – both within and between countries. Addressing rising inequality and its related problems requires a focus not just on the conditions of the poorest, but also on the consequences of wealth accumulation by the richest. As countries seek to meet the SDGs, so the changing political landscape will require new approaches to ensure inclusive and sustainable outcomes. Long-term, inclusive and sustainable social goals are best met through attention to the needs of children. Ensuring the well-being and realizing the rights of all children (including migrants and refugees) is not only a commitment made by those states that have signed the CRC, but is also an essential condition for achieving long-term development goals. Every high-income country invests in its children: healthy, educated children are better able to fulfil their potential and contribute to society. By contrast, problems of child development often carry through into adulthood, with the resulting social costs accruing to the next generation, too. Indeed, achieving the SDGs is about ensuring that future generations have the opportunities enjoyed by the present generation: successful outcomes for today’s children will build the foundations for the wellbeing of our societies tomorrow. Commitments to the SDGs made by governments now need to be translated into programmes and public investments that can deliver on this wide-ranging set of goals and their 169 accompanying targets. While many goals require commitment at the global or multilateral action level if they are to be achieved (particularly those associated with climate change and the global economy), they also demand national action. If countries are to be held to account for their progress towards these goals, appropriate indicators for monitoring that progress are necessary. UNICEF has long been at the forefront of global efforts to monitor life outcomes and social progress for children, and it now plays a leading role in monitoring child-related SDG indicators (see Box 2: UNICEF’s global role in SDG monitoring, page 6). Many of the SDG indicators proposed by the global community are most appropriate for lower income contexts. Report Card 14 proposes an adapted set of indicators to assess countries’ performance against the promise of “leaving no one behind” when national circumstances, ambitions and existing levels of social progress are already well advanced (see Box on the right: How have Report Card 14 indicators been selected?). Specifically, this report seeks to bring the SDG targets for children in high-income countries into meaningful operation (while staying true to the ambitions of the global agenda) and to establish a point of departure for reviewing the SDG framework in these contexts. It focuses on those goals and targets with most direct relevance to the well-being of children in high-income settings. Where appropriate, it adapts the agreed SDG indicator, the better to reflect the problems facing children in such countries (see Table 1 pages 4-5).Although limited by the lack of comparable data in some domains, this report compares 41 countries across 25 indicators. As in other Report Cards, countries are ranked on their achievements in well-being for children according to the selected indicators. The Report Card cannot provide an in-depth analysis of the reasons behind differences, nor of the policy options available for making progress on selected indicators. Nonetheless, by illustrating variation along key dimensions of child well-being related to the SDGs – from ending poverty to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies – it suggests areas where policy efforts or public investment may be targeted to improve outcomes, and reveals where data inadequacies still need to be addressed. 
Global launch of Innocenti Report Card 14 on children and SDGs in rich countries
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Global launch of Innocenti Report Card 14 on children and SDGs in rich countries

Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti in Florence, Italy. (22 June 2017) The global launch of Innocenti Report Card 14, Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries, was held 15 June at the Royal Society in London. Each year the report is launched at an international event designed to promote discussion and exchange of views on policy implications for child well-being that can be drawn from the Report Card findings.Dr. Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti, delivered the keynote presentation. She stressed the universality of the SDG’s which are applicable to all countries regardless of income level, and provided details of how a high level of national income is not a guarantee of sustainable development. “The SDGs give us an opportunity to identify the gaps in global monitoring of child well-being. How do we measure that? Where are the gaps? Where we may need new data, or we need better policies to improve trends?” said Cook in her keynote remarks. (View presentation below)Innocenti Report Card 14: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries from UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti “The report helps to put children firmly in the centre of achieving the sustainable development goals, achieving equity and sustainability for all children, leaving no child behind, recognizing that meeting the sustainable development goals requires a focus on every child, in order for us to achieve sustainability in the future, but also to improve their well-being today.”Jan Vandemoortele, Independent expert, PhD in Development Economics, served in various capacities with the United Nations for over 30 years. Following the keynote presentation an expert panel discussion was organized and moderated by UK social affairs journalist and writer Louise Tickle. Panelist Jan Vandemoortele, independent expert, observed: “I think the value of this report is that is shows the member states of the OECD and the EU that these SDGs are truly universal in the sense that they apply as much to rich countries as they apply to poor countries, in different ways of course. It’s not only an agenda about development assistance.”Panelist Romina Boarini, adviser and researcher with OECD noted: “When you start looking at the details of the performance, let’s say the less traditional categories brought up by the SDGs, we start learning very interesting and surprising results. Norway, that actually tops the league, does poorly on goals such as peace, justice and institutions… And there are opposite examples, because you have countries that are classified at the bottom of the table, countries like Mexico and Portugal, that actually do pretty well in some of the dimensions.”Romina Boarini, Senior Advisor to Secretary General and Coordinator of the Inclusive Growth Initiative, OECD. Portugal’s average rank was 1st among all countries in health and Mexico’s average was 4th in education in the Report Card 14 League Table. Norway’s average rank in peace, justice and strong institutions was 30th out of the 41 countries measured.“If you were to look at the 41 countries in the Report and if you were to look at their newspaper headlines during their most recent election campaigns, just to see the number of times that children were in the newspaper… I think you would find that it was very rare that children made the headlines,” said panelist Richard Morgan, Global Director for child poverty at Save the Children. “The most practical thing is to get children at the centre of our policy concerns in each of our countries, in the rich world as well as the less fortunate societies around the world," said panelist Richard Morgan, Global Director for child poverty with Save the Children. “It’s only by making children, and the complexity of the problems they face, visible, that we are going to get public policy to address them through government spending, through legislation, through data collection… I think the starting point is that we make sure children are not getting poorer, that we have policies that don’t make children poorer.”Lily Caprani, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF UK. Lily Caprani, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF UK highlighted the significance of the Report Card findings for the United Kingdom. “The positive news in here is that the UK, as you would hope, does find itself, overall, in the upper third…I’m not, unfortunately, surprised to see across the OECD countries there are really big stresses and strains on adolescent mental health. …That’s storing up huge problems for the future. That is, in my view, an emergency, and I don’t mean than in terms of a UN emergency, it is an urgent policy priority.” The UK average ranking on the Report Card league table was 16th in poverty, 34th in hunger and 6th in reduced inequalities.Panelist Richard Morgan highlighted the significance of findings in the Report Card on the effectiveness of social transfers in reducing child poverty: “The report also shows that where you have effective, adequate social protection transfers to the poorest households then you make a big dent in child poverty…I think it is very important that we subject every policy measure including on the economic front, every big economic decision to a test: is it going to harm children? And if it is we need to modify it.”On the alarming data in Report Card 14 showing that 1 in 5 children live in poverty, combined with the widening gap in income inequality across most high income countries, Lily Caprani reflected: “This is based on an understanding of children’s lived experience, and when they tell us they are missing out, when they’re in relative poverty it’s not about whether they’ve got this pound or not, it’s about whether they can be involved in the life they expect to be involved in, it’s about 'do they have the same kind of opportunities to be involved in'…It’s about being able to fulfill their potential.”Finally, when asked if the SDGs were realistic given the recent climate of retreat in many countries from the international order where sustainable development goals were unquestioned, Jan Vandemoortele sounded an optimistic note: “We live in a world where nationalism is resurgent, all over the world. The US is the best example. We saw it recently, they walked away from an international agreement on climate change, the Paris Accord. The good news is: What did the others do? Did the others run away? They stayed with it and actually they probably bonded stronger… We all know, deep down, that this is serious, that the situation calls for us to act. We have no choice but to deliver on the sustainable development agenda.”
New Innocenti Report Card offers blueprint for progress on SDGs in rich countries
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New Innocenti Report Card offers blueprint for progress on SDGs in rich countries

The first report to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries in relation to SDGs reveals surprising facts and figures.

Events

Worlds of Influence: Shaping policies for child well-being in rich countries
Event Event

Worlds of Influence: Shaping policies for child well-being in rich countries

UNICEF Innocenti’s Report Card 16 – Worlds of Influence: Understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries – offers a mixed picture of children’s health, skills and happiness. For far too many children, issues such as poverty, exclusion and pollution threaten their mental well-being, physical health and opportunities to develop skills. The evidence from 41 OECD and EU countries tells a comprehensive 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.This panel discussion, timed with the global launch of Report Card 16, comes at a moment when policy makers are asking deep questions about how to ensure child well-being in the light of one of the worst global pandemics in many decades. In it, we delve deeply into the findings of Report Card 16 to better understand how its findings may shape the increasingly uncertain world children are living in. And we examine how the comparative data in this and previous editions of Report Card can support policies for child well-being, looking at previous outcome-based indicators as well as newer context and conditions indicators which are presented in the latest edition of Report Card.Confirmed panelists:Senator Rosemary Moodie, CanadaMr. Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social RightsMs. Denitsa Sacheva, Minister of Labour and Social Policy, BulgariaMr. Fayaz King, Deputy Executive Director,  Field Results and Innovation, UNICEFMr. Dominic Richardson, Chief of Social and Economic Policy, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti