UNICEF 111You would be forgiven for sounding incredulous when you read the latest UNICEF Report Card 13 “Fairness for Children“. The report provides evidence on how inequality is affecting children in high income countries, and New Zealand children are included.

UNICEF New Zealand’s National Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers says:

Report Card 13 shows that across the OECD, children’s economic security has declined in the past 30 years, reinforcing the need for all Governments to ensure that children’s rights and their best interests guide policy decisions.

It is concerning that the data is showing a drop in the educational attainment of children. We know that educational success depends so much on a child’s health, the income of families and their ability to provide educational input and opportunities.

Although our health data hasn’t been compared with other OECD countries for Report Card 13, we know from District Health Board data that some children in New Zealand experience significantly worse health outcomes than others as a result of poverty and poor housing.

Childhood experiences have a profound effect on children’s current lives, but also on their future opportunities and prospects. Social and economic disadvantages in early life can perpetuate disadvantage across generations but these impacts can be mitigated when Government

The report contains league tables of the gaps in income, education, health and quality of life in the 41 OECD countries.

Key points taken from the report:

  • children from poor backgrounds (across OECD countries) were 18 percentage points more likely to achieve low results than the average child.
  • In New Zealand, that was about 21 percentage points. It also ranked New Zealand 17th in income inequality but New Zealand was not included in the analyses of health or life satisfaction.
  • In education inequalities, the tables place New Zealand in 35th place with a drop in educational attainment for children at the bottom, in the period 2006-2012, as measured by Programme of International Students’ Assessment (PISA) results.

The Innocenti’s Report Card 13 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 bottom line of the report is that inequality matters; it shapes the health and educational attainment of our poorest children, and it creates an uneven playing field on which few children can outrun.

The recently released Child Youth and Family report is out and it proposes a new child-centred operating model for the long-term well-being of vulnerable children.

In light of the UNICEF report, it might also be prudent to run a child impact assessment across all new policy/legislative changes to identify the risks and benefits to children living in low income households.

The Social Security Re-Write might be a good place to start!