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Poverty in Canada: A “Child’s Face”

30/05/2012 – “The face of poverty in Canada is a child’s face,” said UNICEF Canada’s Executive Director ,David Morley. Canada ranks near to the bottom among a list of peers when it comes to child poverty, according to a new report on by UNICEF.

In Canada, the face of poverty is that of a child, says one children’s advocate.

According to a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 30 million children living in 35 developed countries live below the poverty line. About 13 million children in Europe lack the necessities of life crucial to their development.

The Vancouver Sun, citing data from Statistics Canada, states that immigrant and aboriginal children—the parents of whom tend to have more children than the national average—are more likely to live in poverty, Immigrant families also subsist on lower incomes.UNICEF’s Report Card10 shows that some countries are performing better than their peers, despite similarities in economic development and per capita earnings. Their policies are better directed to protecting and supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized children in their societies.

Countries were evaluated based on a Child Deprivation Index (CDI) as well as the rate of relative poverty. A child is classified as “deprived” if he or she lacks two or more items on a list of 14 basic needs for living conditions. Such items include three meals a day, homework time and access to Internet, among other thinfs. Relative poverty measures the percentage of children who live below their country’s national poverty line (50 per cent of the median disposable household incomes).

When it comes to the CDI, the highest rates of deprivation are found in such Eastern European countries as Romania and Bulgaria, with Portugal coming in third. Nordic countries perform the best, with only 3 per cent of children being deprived as compared to 70 per cent in Romania and 27 per cent in Portugal.

Nordic countries and the Netherlands also perform the best on measures of relative poverty at about seven per cent. Meanwhile, more than a fifth of children live below the poverty line in Romania and the US.

Canadian children have sadly not escaped the worrying consequences of poverty and deprivation, though they fare better than their American counterparts. Despite the country’s status as a well-developed country—privy to such clubs as the G8 and G20—Canada checks in at 24th out of 35 on UNICEF’s ranking.

“The face of poverty in Canada is a child’s face,” said UNICEF Canada’s Executive Director, David Morley, in a press release. “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.”

Before taxes and transfers, says UNICEF Canada, the national child poverty rate is 25 per cent, a rate only six countries exceeded. After taxes and transfers, this rate ralls: about 13 per cent of Canadian children live in poverty, just above the average of 11 per cent among developed countries. At the same time, spending on families totals just 1.4 per cent of our gross domestic product, as compared to 2.2 per cent averaged among our peers.

The Report Card 10 suggests that Canada’s taxes and transfers are “moderately effective.”

Some suggestions put forward as to how Canada can move forward include articulating a national poverty reduction strategy, improving child benefits and tax credits as spending is not as high as it could be, and state a clear, operational definition of poverty.

“The best performers show it is possible to address poverty within the current fiscal space. On the flip side, failure to protect children from today’s economic crisis is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make,” said UNICEF’s Gordon Alexander, who heads up the agency’s Office of Research.