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UNICEF study calls for more pro-child measures to ensure the burden of difficult economic times is not born by the most vulnerable

The Minister of Labour and Social Policy M. Xhelal Bajrami and UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett

Skopje, 31 May 2010:  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today launched a study on the well-being of Children and Young People in Difficult Economic Times.  Focusing on the most vulnerable – families with children – the study provides insight into the impact of the recent economic crisis and years of economic transition on children and young people in this country.  The study calls for more social policy measures that target children, in addition to economic stimulus packages, to ensure the burden of the crisis is not born by the most vulnerable.

“Fostering economic growth is clearly important.  But economic growth alone will not address social exclusion and ensure that the rights of children are met,” said Sheldon Yett UNICEF Representative.   “The end result of economic growth without effective social policies is growth for its own sake – an improvement on aggregate indicators having little impact on the lives of those who are left behind.   Ensuring effective  and sufficient social transfers are in place cannot be treated as an optional extra to be addressed only when better economic conditions allow,” he said.

National statistics show that more than half of the households living in poverty here are families with children.   This study looks at the impact of the recent economic crisis on these families. It shows that in 2009, the economic crisis led to reduced income in four out of ten of these families, and job losses in over 17%  of surveyed households.  Nine out of ten reported experiencing an increase in family expenses, of which eight out of ten reported having problems paying their monthly bills.  Six out of ten reported reducing spending on the needs of their children. 

“Almost half of the surveyed households with children reported that they earn less than 5,500 denars (90 euro) per month,” said Yett.

In addition to providing a snap-shot of the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable families with children, the study also provides insight into the social and economic response of the government to counter the effects of the current crisis and to alleviate long-term poverty and social exclusion.

” The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy has developed the National Strategy on Poverty Reduction and Social Exclusion.  The strategy contains comprehensive measures targeting education, child protection, social protection, health and other needs”, said Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Mr Xhelal Bajrami, who also spoke at the launch.  “These measures are designed to improve the national social policies in the areas of poverty reduction, employment, increased enrollment in primary and secondary education and quality of basic social services.”

The study highlights the need for additional child-focused measures.  In addition to pro-child economic policies and the need to ensure that cash transfers are both accessible and adequate,  according to the author of the study, Prof. Maja Gerovska Mitev, of the Institute of Social Work and Social Policy at the Ss Cyril and Methodius University  “direct financial support to combat child poverty should be provided for households living in extreme poverty and households living below the poverty line, i.e. those with no income and those with a monthly income of under 5,500 MKD.”

In addition to data from focus groups, as well as review of the relevant policies and existing data, the study included a field survey of 1,042 randomly selected households with children.  Households with children were selected because they comprise the largest share of households living below the relative poverty line.  While the results are not statistically representative of the population as a whole, they do provide a snap-shot of the situation faced by these households.

To download a full copy of the Study of the Well-being of Children and Young People in Difficult Economic Times click here

For further information, please contact:
Irina Ivanovska, UNICEF Skopje, (02) 3231-150 (ext :107), 072  236 722 or iivanovska@unicef.org

 

 

 
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