Al Jazeera America – 2014-10-28 22:27:42
(October 28, 2014) — At least 2.6 million children have fallen below the poverty line in the world’s richest nations since the 2008 economic crisis, UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s aid agency, said in a report released Tuesday.
The report, “Children of the Recession,” estimated that the number of minors living in poverty in the 41 most affluent countries had increased over 3 percent to 76.5 million since the world financial crisis struck in 2008.
“Many affluent countries have suffered a ‘great leap backwards’ in terms of household income, and the impact on children will have long-lasting repercussions for them and their communities,” said Jeffrey O’Malley, UNICEF’s head of global policy and strategy.
The study assessed members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) grouping of industrialized nations as well as European Union countries. UNICEF defined poverty at 60 percent of median annual income, using a country’s relative poverty line in 2008 as a benchmark to assess income change over time.
Children were particularly hard-hit in Ireland, Croatia, Latvia, Greece and Iceland, where poverty rates rose by over 50 percent.
UNICEF said the percentage of households unable to buy meat, chicken or fish every two days had more than doubled in countries such as Estonia, Greece and Italy.
“Children are suffering most, and will bear the consequences longest, in countries where the recession has hit hardest,” the report said.
The report said while early stimulus programs in some countries were effective in shielding children, by 2010 the bulk of countries had pivoted to budget cuts.
Sweeping budget cuts in social safety nets had a serious effect, UNICEF said, adding “no government was prepared for the extent or depth of the recession” and that “many countries with higher levels of child vulnerability would have been wise to strengthen their safety nets during the pre-recession period.”
“All countries need strong social safety nets to protect children in bad times and in good — and wealthy countries should lead by example, explicitly committing to eradicate child poverty, developing policies to offset economic downturns and making child well-being a top priority,” said O’Malley.
In the United States, where extreme child poverty has risen more in this slump than during the recession of 1982, social safety nets provided key support to poor working families but were less effective for the jobless ultra-poor, UNICEF said.
Child poverty has increased in 34 out of 50 US states since the start of the crisis. In 2012, 24.2 million children were living in poverty, a net increase of 1.7 million from 2008, the study showed.
There was some good news, however. In 18 countries, child poverty actually fell, sometimes markedly. Australia, Chile, Finland, Norway, Poland and Slovakia, for example, reduced levels by around 30 percent.
Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse
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