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Canada can do more to protect its children from poverty, new UNICEF report

Toronto, Tuesday May 29th 2012 – A new report released by UNICEF today comparing child poverty in 35 industrialized countries reveals Canada could be doing more to protect its children.

“The face of poverty in Canada is a child’s face,” says UNICEF Canada’s Executive Director David Morley. “This is unacceptable. It is clearly time for Canada to make children a priority when planning budgets and spending our nation’s resources, even in tough economic times.”

Report Card 10: Measuring Child Poverty from UNICEF’s Research Office reveals Canada’s child poverty rate is higher than Canada’s overall national poverty rate. When comparing this gap between child poverty and overall poverty, Canada ranks 18th of the 35 countries measured. Ten of the 35 countries have lower child poverty rates than overall poverty rates, including the Nordic countries, Japan and Australia. Romania is at the bottom of the list with a child poverty rate of 26 per cent – a third higher than its national rate.When examining the percentage of children living in poverty, Canada is again in the bottom third, with 13 per cent of children living in poverty ranking Canada 24th of 35 countries. Iceland tops the list with the lowest rate of child poverty just below 5 per cent; Romania has the highest.

According to today’s Report Card, approximately 30 million children in 35 industrialized countries are growing up poor. It emphasizes child poverty is not inevitable in these countries but significantly affected by government policy. Countries with similar levels of economic development and per capita income have different child poverty rates. For example, Canada’s taxes and transfers are more successful at lowering child poverty rate compared to the United States but they are not as successful as the Nordic countries, Ireland or Australia. In general, countries get the child poverty rate they pay for.

“Millions of children are going without in countries that have the resources to protect them, including children here in Canada,” says Morley.

How Canada can do better

There are a number of ways Canada can better prioritize children. Child benefits and tax credits could be improved given Canada’s moderate level of spending on children compared to similar countries.

Canada should also establish a national poverty reduction strategy, including a focus on children. Since 2002, twelve provinces and territories have set strategies or committed to provincial poverty reduction plans. Quebec was one of the first to set targets and the results have been positive for children.

Canada also lacks an official definition of poverty, making it difficult to understand the severity of the situation, monitor the well-being of children and guide effective investments.

Today’s Report Card also demonstrates how two poverty measurements, one based on income and one a new Child Deprivation Index which provides a list of 14 basic items essential to a child’s well-being, can provide more information to better guide policy decisions.

Visit to read UNICEF’s Report Card 10 and see info graphics comparing child poverty rates in Canada and other industrialized countries around the world. Join the conversation on twitter by following UNICEF Canada (@UNICEFLive) using #ReportCard10 and #OneLine.

UNICEF’s Report Card Series

In keeping with UNICEF’s mandate to advocate for children in every country, UNICEF’s Report Card series focuses on the well-being of children in industrialized countries. Each Report Card includes a league table ranking the countries of the OECD according to their record on the subject under discussion. The Report Cards are designed to appeal to a wide audience while maintaining academic rigour.


UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries – more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

For further information:
Melanie Sharpe, Media Relations Specialist, UNICEF Canada, office; 416-482-6552 ext. 8892 cell: 416-806-2764, [email protected]