Canada and Italy, still too many children in poverty

TORONTO – Poverty affects more than one in five children in the thirty-nine richest countries in the OECD-EU area. And Canada ranks only in 11th place, in a list dominated by Denmark, Slovenia and Finland which represent a point of reference for high-income countries. Worse still is Italy, which is in 33rd place. 

These and other data are contained in the report published today by the “Innocenti” research institute of Unicef ​​(which you can read in full by clicking here: UNICEF-Innocenti-Report-Card-18-Child-Poverty-Amidst-Wealth-2023), which analyzed a series of factors, developing two main rankings: one relating to the level of child poverty recorded in the three-year period 2019-2021, one relating to the progress made to put an end to it from the three-year period 2012-2014 to the three-year period 2019-2021. A third ranking, the definitive one, was drawn up by averaging the first two.

In the ranking relating to the level of child poverty, Canada is even 19th, with 17.2% of children living in poverty, while Italy is 33rd (25.5% of children are “poor”). They are disheartening data for both countries, if you consider that in Denmark the percentage in question is 9.9%, in Slovenia 10%, in Finland 10.1%, in the Czech Republic 11.6%, in Norway by 12% (just to name a few of the countries taken into consideration).

In the ranking relating to the progress made by various countries to remedy this situation, Canada’s position is better: it is seventh, with a reduction in child poverty of 22.7% in the period examined. But the percentage of poor children, we were saying, remains high: “The Unicef ​​report shows that, despite the progress made, Canada’s work to lift children out of poverty has not been completed. We still have a lot to do here in Canada” commented Sevaun Palvetzian, President and CEO of Unicef ​​Canada. “Being a G7 country with one of the largest economies in the world – she added – Canada can aim for a higher place than the average among high-income countries”, compared to the current 11th position in the general ranking.

Canada’s progress in reducing child poverty over the past decade is largely due to the Canada Child Benefit and pandemic-related income transfers. However, despite this fragile progress, nearly 18% of Canadian children still live in poverty – in fact, by a rough estimate, 1 million children.

As for Italy, as we were saying, it is in worse shape. In fact, the report shows that Italy is in 34th place out of 39 high-income nations in the general ranking of poverty among very young people and is 33rd in the ranking relating to the level of child poverty (with 25.5% of children living in poverty ) and 25th in the ranking relating to the reduction of poverty itself (with an almost irrelevant variation of -0.8%).

The report then highlights another aspect of child poverty, that of the consequences it can have on the future of children. “For most children, it means they may grow up without nutritious food, clothing, school supplies or a warm place to call home. It prevents children from enjoying their rights and can lead to poor physical and mental health” said Bo Viktor Nylund, Director of Unicef ​​Innocenti, Global Office of Research. “The consequences of poverty can last a lifetime: children living in poverty are less likely to complete school and earn lower wages as adults”.

And the economic crisis cannot be used as an excuse: according to the report, in fact, children’s living conditions can be improved regardless of the wealth of a country. For example, Poland, Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are certainly not among the richest countries in the OECD and the EU, have achieved significant reductions in child poverty: -37.6% in Poland and above -30% in other countries. Perhaps their example should be followed.

Photo by Jordan Whitt from Unsplash