Child poverty or child deprivation is a world-class important issue. Child poverty is highly associated with other important issues for a person in a society such as impaired cognitive development, behavioral difficulties, low level of health, low level of education achievement, low skills and aspiration, welfare dependence, and drug and alcohol dependence, etc.
In order to help prevent this, UNICEF has created “Report Card 10” which brings information about child poverty rate as a critical indicator of how well countries are doing. Specifically, this report card looks at the child deprivation level and compare them across countries to generate a child deprivation index. A child is considered to be in poverty if he or she lacks 2 out of 14 items that are considered basic needs. This could be for example, having 3 good meals a day or having a place to do homework.
Although the index varies across countries, it reflects how well the country is doing or how wealthy the country really is. Consider two countries that have the same level of income per capita ($25000 a year), in this case, Czech Republic and Portugal. Portugal has about 3 times higher child poverty rate than Czech Republic does. This makes a huge difference in terms of wealth of a country. Moreover, the index shows how many children are living in the poor family relative to their own society and how far they are from relative poverty line. A child is considered to live in relative poverty when he or she lives in a family who cannot afford basic needs (food, shelter, healthcare and clothes) comparing to others in their society. This is different from absolute poverty which considers a child to live in poverty when he or she lives in a family who cannot afford minimum basic needs comparing to a fixed cutoff point. UNICEF mentions that relative poverty is a true poverty because it reflects a standard that changes over time and depicts how a child experiences poverty.
In terms of government aspect, the index also measures government’s performance as well as government’s spending on child poverty problems such as transfer on child protection efforts. Therefore, it shows government’s commitment and effort to solve child poverty problems.
UNICEF encourages the European Commission to have this report every year instead of every 3 to 4 years in order to monitor child poverty closely. Having a close monitoring will certainly allow for an evidence-based policy, effective and efficient allocation of resources, and a more informed advocacy.
Report 10 card is a good example that reflects great organizational effort that UNICEF has put together to protect children’s future. However, child deprivation is not a problem for a single country nor it is to be managed by a single organization. It is everyone’s issue and requires collective efforts and commitment at organizational, institutional and international level. Therefore, it is time for us to take this issue seriously and contribute our commitment and effort to solve child poverty problem to plan a better future for our children and society.