05/29/2012 05:05 EDT | Updated 05/30/2012 07:19 EDT

Child Poverty Statistics: UNICEF Reports Shows Countries Have Much Work To Do


If we believe the children are our future, then it might be time to put some money where our mouths are.

In a report released by UNICEF today on child poverty in 35 industrialized countries, Canada lies solidly toward the end of the group, despite a 1989 pledge by the government to eradicate child poverty by year 2000.

"Over the last 15 years child poverty has not changed much in Canada, even in strong economic times," UNICEF Canada's President and CEO David Morley told The Huffington Post Canada.

The UNICEF Report Card 10 on Child Poverty looked at two measures of child poverty, one based on income and one (for European countries) based on a Child Deprivation Index, which indicated 14 basic items essential to a child’s well-being. The report noted that, for Canada, the child poverty rate exceeded that of the national poverty rate, and was twice that of the senior rate.

"Households with children are headed by younger-than-average people with lower earnings than average, so children are always more likely to be poorer," he explained. "But Canada’s tax-transfer program more effectively lowers poverty rates among the elderly than among the young. This success story shows us how effective government can be when it sets out priorities."

SEE: How does Canada compare to the rest of the world's industrialized nations in child poverty based on income? Story continues below:

Photo gallery Child Poverty Around The World See Gallery

The effects of child poverty range from health problems to cognitive issues -- children living in poverty are five times more likely to die from an infectious disease, and 1.3 times more likely to have developmental delays or learning disabilities, according to the National Center for Health Statistics in the U.S.

"In areas such as education, Canadian children on average fare better than most of their peers in other countries," said Morley. "But Canada’s children have higher than average rates of injury, suicide, drug and alcohol use and unhealthy weight compared to their peers in many other industrial countries. These circumstances are not inevitable -- they are influenced by policy decisions and they can be changed."

Overall, more than 30 million children were found to be living in poverty in industrialized nations. "Millions of children are going without in countries that have the resources to protect them, including here in Canada," Morley was quoted as saying in the organization's press release.

For solutions, Morley believes a national poverty reduction strategy, with a focus on children, should be established. He points to the positive results in Quebec since they created specific targets with the Act to combat poverty and social exclusion in 2002.

"Canada also needs an official definition of child poverty to set a target to reduce it," Morley suggested. "And use different poverty measurements to better monitor the well-being of children and guide effective investments."