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New figures on growing inequality among children

UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)

Media Release

14 April 2016

New figures on growing inequality among children in high income countries – UNICEF

A UNICEF report released today presents new evidence on how inequality is affecting children in high income countries. Innocenti's Report Card 13, Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries, ranks 41 EU and OECD countries according to how far children at the bottom of the distribution fall below their peers in the middle.

The report looks at bottom end inequality of income, educational achievement, self-reported health and life satisfaction.

New Zealand is only included in the league tables on income and educational achievement, due to a lack of data that can be compared with other OECD countries. New Zealand is ranked 17th for inequality in income – with children in the bottom 10 percent (10th percentile) having incomes 46 percent lower than the average child. The tables show that income inequality in New Zealand is largely stagnant, with a small drop in the relative income gap of -1.1% from 2008-2013.

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.

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 overall message of the Report Card is that, in order to improve the well-being of all children, it is vital that greater progress is made in reducing child well-being gaps. A fair society is impossible if some children are denied a strong start in life. Addressing inequalities in child well-being should be a central aspect of all policies relevant to children and child well-being.

“The Report Card provides 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,” said Dr. Sarah Cook, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. “As our understanding of the long term impact of inequality grows, it becomes increasingly clear that governments must place priority on enhancing the well-being of all children today, and give them the opportunity to achieve their potential.”

UNICEF New Zealand's National Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers added, “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 policy works to improve children’s wellbeing.

“Report Card 13 is a timely reminder of the need for coordinated Government efforts to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential, with parents supported to provide for their children,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

Download the full report: http://www.unicef-irc.org

Download press-kit and multi-media materials: http://uni.cf/1NliymO

© Scoop Media

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