Canada ranked 18th out of 35 in child poverty report
Published Tuesday, May 29, 2012 7:02AM EDT
Child poverty in Canada is more prevalent than the overall national poverty rate, according to a new report that ranks 18th among 35 industrialized nations when it comes to the gap between the two figures.
The country falls even further behind when it comes to the number of children who are actually considered poor, the report released by UNICEF Canada found.
The "Measuring Child Poverty" report ranked Canada 18th for countries with a higher child poverty rate than its overall rate and 24th in terms of the number of children actually growing up poor.
The child poverty rate in Canada is 13.3 per cent in contrast to the country's overall poverty rate of 11.4 per cent, the study found.
The report, released Tuesday, said about 30 million children in the 35 countries studied are poor.
"We know we can do a better," UNICEF executive director David Morley told CTVNews.ca Tuesday.
Morley said improving Canada's child tax benefit would go a long way in dealing with income disparity for poor families.
But it's also critical that a child commissioner's position be created so that governments are reminded of the problem every time they consider their budgets or policies, he said.
Morley said such a commissioner would give governments the ability for "looking at the budget through the eyes of children."
Municipalities can also play a major role in improving the lives of poor children by raising their lifestyle standards through good libraries, playgrounds and ensuring their bylaws take the needs of children into consideration.
They can also make sure recreation opportunities are available for kids who otherwise couldn't afford them.
"It's an important part of child development," Morley said.
Canada also lacks an official definition poverty, he added, which makes it difficult to understand the severity of the problem.
He credited various levels of government for getting the country's child poverty level below that of the United States, but said a lot more can be done.
The report found Nordic countries and the Netherlands had the lowest child poverty rates, while Japan, the United States as well as southern and eastern European countries had some of the highest.
Child poverty rates by nation varied in the report from five per cent in Iceland to 25 per cent in Romania.
Ten of the 35 countries measured had lower child poverty rates than their overall poverty level, including Australia, Japan and Germany.
In Canada, children in Quebec and Manitoba fared better in the report, partly because these provinces have more effective early childhood education programs, Morley said.
Ontario is also moving forward in addressing early childhood education through policies such as full-day kindergarten.
Morley said Canada needs to establish a national poverty reduction strategy that includes a focus on children.
The report based its findings on what it termed a "child deprivation index" that includes items like clothing, books and the ability to participate in school trips and birthdays.
Relative child poverty is defined in the study as living in a household in which disposable income is less than 50 per cent of the national median net income of $63,800, based on 2009 figures.