Children are often the victim of poverty because they are dependant from other people: their parents, the government or other institutions. They are not allowed to work, and this is a good thing, but this also makes them a vulnerable group in society. This blogpost will discuss poverty in this rich countries and will focus on children in these societies.
Poverty in rich countries is a controversial topic by itself. Many people consider poverty to be something to be only present in developing countries. However, there are many ways to look at poverty and to look at poverty in developed and rich countries is to look at different measures. Two very important measures when looking at poverty are absolute poverty and relative poverty. To understand poverty in rich countries we need basic understanding of these concepts.
Absolute poverty relates to poverty in what most people know, not having resources to buy the most basic needs and having to live of a very meagre wage. The most common measurement to measure absolute poverty is the poverty line. This is a fixed amount of money, and if you have more at your disposal you are not poor. The poverty line that is taken into account in Europe for example is 10 euros/day. This means that people who have less than 10 euros to spend per day are living under the poverty line. But as we can see, this is already quite a subjective measure, as 10 euros buys you more in Spain than in Germany.
Relative poverty is much more common in rich countries and developed countries and also has to be taken seriously, even though not many people may be aware this is a real type of poverty. Relative poverty looks at poverty in comparison to your peers. If other people have access to several services and products, and you don’t, this could mean you are relatively poor. Relative poverty in developed and rich countries is a real thing and the crisis of 2008 and the years after have significantly impacted the lives of people in several countries.
As we can see, relative poverty is an important factor in explaining situations in rich countries and to be able to compare children in different countries. However, this measure is controversial according to some. How can the income of the poorest be rising but relative child poverty be rising too? This contradicts each other and doesn’t measure actual poverty, according to the opposers. Relative poverty has however very important benefits over absolute measures since it is able to assess deprivation of certain factors. A very important way of assessing children’s poverty is for example the deprivation index. The deprivation index is based on the kind of possessions, services and opportunities that most people would consider normal for a child growing up in a wealthy country today and measures the percentage of children that have access to these. The figure to the left (UNICEF) shows the different levels of deprivations of children in 29 economically advanced countries between 0 and 16. A child is conside
red to be deprived when it lacks two or more of the mentioned services or opportunities. As we can see, it is not related to how rich a country is, or to GDP, because for example the Netherlands and Germany are comparable in GDP, but not in child deprivation. This has to do with all kinds of factors like policies, inequality in the countries and more. As we can see, the child deprivation differs a lot within the EU as well, with a low 0.9% in Iceland and as high as 72.6% in Romania who lack 2 or more of the list.
It is very hard to determine is how the European recession has impacted the child deprivation and poverty. The reason for this is because there is hardly any comparable international data available to make this comparison. One thing that we can see is that services that are linked to children’s poverty are put under a strain because of the crisis. Think of austerity measures, child security, social security, health care or other family services. Some families may not have enough money to come by, but cushions like these make sure they make it through the month. Taken away this can make a huge difference for families.