According to UNICEF, the UK doesn’t compare to other countries when it comes to reducing the inequalities between rich and poor children.
In a new study called Report Card 13, UNICEF said that the UK has “concerning gaps in health, education, and income” when it comes to rich versus poor children.
One of the most urgent concerns is the difference in math, reading, and science scores between children of different socioeconomic classes. As many as one-tenth of students in the country don’t meet the basic scholastic standards in these subjects. Overall, British students ranked 25th out of 37, behind countries like Slovenia, Poland, and Romania.
The organization also noted the disparity in healthy eating habits between children of different economic classes, like regularly eating fruits and vegetables and exercising frequently. In this aspect, Britain is worst of all 37 countries measured.
In response, the government said that there are 300,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010, reports Hannah Richardson of the BBC. It is true that the gap between children of different income levels has narrowed, but it is mostly because the income of the poorest families has been falling more slowly than those in the middle or upper classes. Benefits not included, the income gap in Britain is one of the largest in Europe.
Ben Quinn of the Guardian quoted Lily Caprani, UNICEF UK’s deputy executive director:
Britain can and must do better. Inequality between children is damaging their lives and aspirations.
Taking children’s rights seriously means acting with urgency to make sure no child is left behind.
The UK government should adopt, as a matter of urgency, a childhood obesity strategy that promotes and supports healthy lifestyles for low-income children.
It must also act to further reduce income inequality, which includes protecting social transfers [benefits].
According to a spokesman, the Department of Work and Pensions is working to eliminate childhood poverty and to improve the lives of these children.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said:
It’s time we renewed the fight against child poverty in Britain, and the government could make a good start by abandoning its planned four-year benefits freeze, which will make life harder for millions of children.
According to Harry Yorke of the Sunday Post, the study found that Denmark has the best equality among children of different socioeconomic classes, and Israel and Turkey have the worst. The next best countries for raising children, reports Samuel Osbourne of the Independent, are Finland, Norway, and Switzerland.
The UK was ranked 14th overall in child inequality, alongside Germany, Greece, and Hungary, However, it is only 7th in income equality.
Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield noted that the UK has progressed significantly in decreasing other issues that lead to child poverty like teen pregnancy and alcohol use.
This study is a part of UNICEF’s report card series, which focuses on the differences in privilege between children of different socioeconomic levels.