The Progress of Nations

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Rich countries: Where 47 million children are poor

One child out of six – or 47 million children – in OECD countries lives in poverty, says a new UNICEF report. (OECD countries include industrialized as well as industrializing countries that meet certain criteria; see note below chart.)

Mexico and the United States now top the list of OECD countries where children live in ‘relative’ poverty: More than one in four children in Mexico (26.2%) and more than one in five in the United States (22.4%) are poor. The report defines relative poverty as living in a household where income is less than half of the national median.

The next most severe child poverty rates are found in Italy (20.5%), the United Kingdom (19.8%) and Turkey (19.7%).

At the other end of the scale are Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden, where child poverty levels range from as low as 1 in 38 in Sweden (2.6%) to 1 in 20 in Denmark (5.1%). In the Nordic countries, the low levels of child poverty reflect the high levels of investment in family policies.

Besides having the lowest levels of child poverty in the industrialized world, the Nordic countries are also the most generous donors. The two donor countries with the highest levels of child poverty, Italy and the United States, contribute the least aid when considered as a percentage of GNP (see story ‘Halt in overall aid decline, but no sustained increase seen’).

The high rates of child poverty in rich countries underscore the need for all nations – not just poor ones – to identify the pockets of poverty in their countries and to take measures to protect the children who are affected.

Note: All countries listed are members of OECD. Criteria for membership include an open market economy, democratic pluralism and respect for human rights.
Source: UNICEF, ‘A league table of child poverty in rich nations’, Innocenti Report Card No. 1, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, 2000.
 
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