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HBSC and UNICEF shed light on growing inequality among children in high income countries

A new UNICEF report, including analysis and data from the HBSC study, presents evidence on how inequality affects children in high income countries.

Innocenti Report Card 13, Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well- being in rich countries, ranks 41 EU and OECD countries according to how far children at the bottom of the distribution fall below their peers in the middle. The report looks at bottom end inequality of income, educational achievement, self-reported health and life satisfaction.

Key findings:

  • Denmark is at the top of the overall league table with the lowest inequality among children. Israel ranked lowest across all domains.
  • In 19 out of 41 countries covered by the data, more than 10 per cent of children live in households with less than half the median income.
  • While inequality in children’s self-reported health symptoms increased in almost all countries between 2002 and 2014, inequality in physical activity and poor diet decreased in a majority of countries.
  • Bottom-end inequality has also narrowed in reading achievement in the majority of countries.
  • When children rank their life satisfaction on a scale of 1 – 10 the median score is 8; however, children at the lower end of the distribution fall far behind their peers. In every country, girls aged 13 and 15 report lower life satisfaction than boys.

Recommended actions:

  • Innocenti Report Card 13 proposes the following key areas for government action to strengthen child well-being:
  • Protect the incomes of households with the poorest children.
  • Improve the educational achievements of disadvantaged learners.
  • Promote and support healthy lifestyles for all children.
  • Take subjective well-being seriously.
  • Place equity at the heart of child well-being agendas.

“The Report Card provides a clear reminder that the well-being of children in any country is not an inevitable outcome of individual circumstances or of the level of economic development but is shaped by policy choices,” said Dr. Sarah Cook, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. “As our understanding of the long term impact of inequality grows, it becomes increasingly clear that governments must place priority on enhancing the well-being of all children today, and give them the opportunity to achieve their potential.”

Other important findings include:

  • Inequality in children’s health increased in the majority of countries.
  • Data from the 2013/2014 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study highlighted in the health league tables in the report show that the average relative gap in children’s self-reported health symptoms is 29 per cent across the 35 countries examined.
  • The smallest health gaps are found in Austria (23.6 per cent), Germany (24.8 per cent), and Switzerland (25 per cent). The largest inequalities in children’s health are found in Israel where the relative health gap is 38.9 per cent, and Turkey, 34.5 per cent.
  • More than half of children in Turkey and around a third of children in Bulgaria, France, Israel, Malta and Romania report one or more health symptom a day.
  • Adolescent girls are persistently more likely to fall behind in health. In 10 countries the gender gap has increased since 2002 including in Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. These differences are likely to endure into adulthood.

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item 3603
[14-04-2016 to 31-03-2017]


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