Family income is not the only factor that makes children poor

UNICEF and Finance Think launch a new study on multi-dimensional child poverty in North Macedonia

09 December 2021
Roma boy wearing red jacket standing on a street

Skopje, 9 December 2021:  A new study on Multidimensional Child Poverty in North Macedonia calls for policy makers to reimagine how the country measures and tackles child poverty. The study builds on a new methodology that recognises children experience poverty differently to adults and that child wellbeing is determined by multiple factors, beyond family income.  It highlights that deprivations in education, early childhood development, nutrition, safety, and love and care are among the top 5 contributors to the multidimensional child poverty.

The new study was launched at the Policy Forum "Child Poverty in North Macedonia - Income is Not the Only Factor” organised by UNICEF and Finance Think.  Officially opened by President Pendarovski and the UNICEF Representative, the policy forum brought together Government, policy makers, and civil society representatives to discuss the policy implications of the new report.

“We cannot say that we live in a free and just society as long as there are children living in poverty. Therefore, the issue of child poverty is primarily a moral and ethical issue. We need practical steps and policies that lead to systemic and structural changes that will create the conditions for lifting children out of poverty, and their equal inclusion in society. Solidarity with the vulnerable is much more than an act of generosity. Solidarity means fighting the structural causes of poverty and inequality,” said H.E. Stevo Pendarovski, President of the Republic of North Macedonia.

“We need to reimagine our general approach to tackling child poverty. We need to shift away from the sole focus on family income. Investments to improve quality education, expand access to preschool and basic social services, and introduce new services and programmes to support parents so that every child grows up in loving family environment, must be seen as investments to tackle child poverty and build a brighter future for all of the citizens of the country,” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative.

The study introduces a new Multidimensional Child Poverty Index for North Macedonia that includes twelve dimensions: nutrition, access to water and sanitation, health, housing, education, information, other social services, care and love, safety, freedom from exploitation, early childhood development and material wellbeing.  It is designed to help policy makers plan well-targeted, effective and efficient policies to reduce and eliminate child poverty.

The results highlight that:

  • 12% of children aged 5 to 17 and 9% of children under 5 experience multidimensional poverty.
  • Roma children, regardless of age, are significantly more vulnerable. At least one in three Roma children experience multidimensional poverty, compared to one in nine children in the overall population.
  • Over 40% of children under the age of 5 who face multidimensional child poverty, experience deprivations in early childhood development, safety and material wellbeing.
  • Every second child aged 5 to 17 who faces multidimensional child poverty, experiences deprivations in education, safety, and care and love.
  • Two regions, the East and the Southeast, have a high prevalence of multidimensional poverty, and the Polog and Skopje regions also show high vulnerability.
  • Child poverty in urban areas can be significantly reduced with measures to improve education and material well-being, while in rural areas a broader approach that requires interventions across multiple dimensions is needed.
  • Education of children and parents is an important factor lifting children out of poverty.

Based on these finding the new study recommends that the Government: regularly measures multidimensional child poverty and includes goals and indicators related to child poverty in the relevant strategies; prioritizes policies and plans that reduce inequality and focus on the most vulnerable children, such as Roma children and children living in rural communities; introduce new services to support parents, and continue investment to reform the education system and efforts to expand inclusive preschool and school education so that every child acquires the knowledge and skills they need to thrive and flourish.

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Irina Ivanovska
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