Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Who's minding the children?

UNICEF has just released its report on child poverty, titled, "An overview of child well-being in rich countries: A comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations."

It makes pretty sobering reading. The report argues that “The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.”

So where do the countries that I’m familiar with (having lived there) rank. The Netherlands heads the table of overall child well-being, ranking in the top 10 for all six dimensions of child well-being covered by the report. Got to be all the milk they drink. The UK and the US are in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed.

What’s very scary is that NZ has always been deemed the best place to bring up your kids, at least that's what we Kiwis boast. Heavens above - as noted in the report, New Zealand children die from accidents and injuries at a higher rate than in any of 24 other developed countries. Mind you, the US is right there beside it. I don’t know what the cause may be here in the US, but I’d hazard a guess that in NZ too many young lads drink and drive their cars too fast, and with my fairly regular reading of the NZ Herald, there are appalling rates of family violence and child deaths by maltreatment.

At least for educational development (reading, maths and science in 15 year-olds), NZ and the Netherlands rank up the near the top, while the US lags far behind.

This is just brushing the surface of an extremely comprehensive report with a myriad of dimensions and respective percentages. But surely, countries such as the US and the UK, and even wee ol’ NZ, albeit relatively ‘poorer’ when comparing GDP, could and should be doing better with the resources these wealthy countries have.

1 comment:

Rob said...

These international comparisons suffer from different scales of analysis, categorisations and reporting methods from each source country - particularly when it involves self-reporting. Plenty of data are missing for NZ. The median wealth measure is pretty dodgy. The four family affluence questions are comic. See page 41: "In practice, data for ‘ideal indicators’ of the different aspects of child well-being were often unavailable (or not available on an internationally comparable basis). In such cases, it was decided to press ahead using the best data available for the countries under review."
Take a pinch of salt: consider the balances offered by different lifestyles. Watching TV is very safe, and considering the cost of a flat-screen, probably good for GDP (just like car accidents).
I like Figure 1.3b in the UNICEF report: "Percentage of children aged 15 reporting less than 6 education possessions." The author must be missing at least one 'education possession': grammar.
It's useful for debate, but I'd never take these things too literally. Hmm, should we live in Norway (brr)or NZ ....