Question: How highly was the UK ranked in this week’s UNICEF report on tackling inequality amongst children?
Answer: Joint 14th, along with Greece, Hungary and Germany.
On Thursday this week UNICEF, the United Nations body concerned with the welfare of children, published a report which has been seen as a reprimand for the UK. Fairness for Children looks at inequalities in wealth, health, life satisfaction and academic achievement for children in 37 of the richest countries. Looking at the document it seems that our country has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor.
Our worst score was in education inequality, where children’s performance in reading, maths and science was looked at. The UK was ranked 25th out of the 37 countries. Lithuania, Hungary and Chile all out-performed us.
In life satisfaction we did slightly better, coming 20th. Poorer children in Britain are 72% as happy as their wealthier counterparts. For comparison, in the Netherlands the score was 76% and in Croatia it was 71%.
In health the gap was slightly smaller and the UK was ranked 19th. Children from Britain’s poorer families are much less likely to have a balanced diet than their wealthier schoolmates. Their levels of physical activity are also lower.
Financially the UK had mixed results. The report found that 25% of British children live in deprived households. However, the UK came top of the table for reducing the income gap via benefits, bringing it down by 48%. When benefits are not included in the calculation the income gap in Britain is one of the highest in Europe.
So, are these results good enough? Britain is the 5th richest country in the world in terms of GDP. Surely we should be doing better? Lily Caprani, UNICEF UK’s deputy executive director, certainly thinks so. She said:
“Britain can and must do better. Inequality between children is damaging their lives and aspirations… [The Government] must act to further reduce income inequality, which includes protecting social transfers [benefits].”
But should we take heed of this report? Not according to the Department of Work and Pensions. A spokesman said:
“We’ve introduced the National Living Wage, which is increasing the incomes of the lowest paid. All infant pupils can now get free school meals – meaning 1.3 million more children get a nutritious free meal at lunchtime, saving families hundreds of pounds. And we continue to spend £80bn a year to provide a safety net for those who need extra support.”
So, who’s right? There are two sides to every argument. Statistics can be interpreted in many different ways. Before you make up your own mind I’d urge you to take a look at the report yourself. It’s an important issue on which you might judge the Government as either failing or as succeeding.
For further reading, you may find the Education Quizzes Knowledge Bank of interest. It’s packed full of articles which aim to answer the questions asked by parents. Whether it’s the details of the National Curriculum or tips on child discipline, we have a library of knowledge at your fingertips! Well worth a look, for any parent.
Before making a decision it’s always good to inform yourself, and that’s a good habit to teach your children. It will serve them well throughout their lives.