According to a new UNICEF report, Canada is one of the most unequal societies when it comes to children and youth.
The global study, “Report Card 13: Fairness for Children,” looked at child inequality based on income, education, health and life satisfaction. It took a look at how far the poorest children in a country can fall behind the average.
Out of 35 nations, we came in at number 26. By comparison, Australia ranked at 13, the U.K. at 14 and the U.S. at 18.
“We need to make some investments,” David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada, told the Toronto Star. “If we make things better for our poorest children, it makes them better for our society and builds the kind of society we want to think we are.”
"Canada has shown no improvement in child well-being over the past decade."
Canada previously ranked in the middle at number 17 of 29 nations in 2013. Three years later, the country now ranks in the bottom third of UNICEF’s report with France (28), Italy (32) and Israel (35) trailing behind.
According to the report, Canada has shown no improvement in child well-being over the past decade.
When it comes to income inequality, Canada's poorest children come from families whose incomes are 53 per cent lower than average.
Most importantly, nine per cent of Canadian kids reported very low life satisfaction, which is more than other wealthy nations.
Life satisfaction directly relates to children’s mental health, which has become an increasing issue in Canada.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth have a mental illness or disorder, but only one in five children receive the services they need. Additionally, “Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world.”
"Nine per cent of Canadian kids reported very low life satisfaction."
Recently, the suicide crisis in the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat has made headlines. On Tuesday, a suicide pact among 13 youth, including a nine-year-old girl, that was thwarted by leaders and police.
According to Morley, Canada’s low rankings in income and life satisfaction are likely due to our “competitive society.”
“It’s easier to feel hopeless,” he told The Star. “It’s easier to feel outside of the mainstream. You’re being told all the time you’re not part of it.”
The one area Canada is doing well in is education, which has managed to close gaps among children and has even helped to improve some aspects of health, such as promoting physical activity.
Due to the report’s findings, UNICEF is now urging all governments to make more investments in children earlier on.
Dr. Sarah Cook, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, said, “As our understanding of the long term impact of inequality grows, it becomes increasingly clear that governments must place priority on enhancing the well-being of all children today, and give them the opportunity to achieve their potential.”
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