Rich countries face challenges meeting global commitments to children, new report says
Walid Mechrhale, 14, stands outside the Alkadia youth centre, in the city of Turin, Piedmont Region, Italy.
FLORENCE/NEW YORK, 15 June 2017 – 1 in 5 children in high-income countries lives in relative income poverty and an average of 1 in 8 faces food insecurity, according to the latest Report Card issued by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti.
Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries is the first report to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified as most important for child well-being. It ranks countries based on their performance and details the challenges and opportunities that advanced economies face in achieving global commitments to children.
“Report Card 14 is a wake-up-call that even in high-income countries progress does not benefit all children,” said Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti. “Higher incomes do not automatically lead to improved outcomes for all children, and may indeed deepen inequalities. Governments in all countries need to take action to ensure the gaps are reduced and progress is made to reach the SDGs for children.”
Key results on selected SDG indicators for children and adolescents in rich countries include:
• End poverty: On average 1 in 5 children in high-income countries lives in relative income poverty, though there is wide variation, from 1 in 10 in Denmark, Iceland and Norway to 1 in 3 in Israel and Romania.
• End hunger: An average of 1 in 8 children in high-income countries faces food insecurity, rising to 1 in 5 in the United Kingdom and the United States, and to 1 in 3 in Mexico and Turkey.
• Ensure healthy lives: Neonatal mortality has dramatically fallen in most countries; and rates of adolescent suicide, teenage births and drunkenness are declining. However, 1 in 4 adolescents reports two or more mental health issues more than once a week.
• Ensure quality education: Even in the best-performing countries, including Japan and Finland, around one fifth of 15-year-olds do not reach minimum proficiency levels in reading, mathematics and science.
• Achieve gender equality: On average, 14 per cent of adults surveyed in 17 rich countries believe that boys deserve preference for university education, and in the majority of these countries the belief is higher among males.
In ranking 41 countries, the league table reads well for those countries that frequently appear at the top of recent comparisons of human and child development – the Nordic countries, Germany and Switzerland – and less well for lower-income countries in the group, such as Romania, Bulgaria and Chile. However, a closer look reveals room for improvement across the board as all countries rank in the mid- or bottom-third on two or more goals.