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Australia’s Inequality Gap Widening – UNICEF Report

14 April 2016 at 11:19 am
Lina Caneva
A new UNICEF report highlights how inequality affects children in high income countries, with some Australian children falling well behind key international measures.

Lina Caneva | 14 April 2016 at 11:19 am


Australia’s Inequality Gap Widening – UNICEF Report
14 April 2016 at 11:19 am

A new UNICEF report highlights how inequality affects children in high income countries, with some Australian children falling well behind key international measures.

Australia’s average ranking is 13 out of 35 EU/OECD countries, just ahead of Germany, Greece, Hungary and the United Kingdom.

The report, called Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries, ranked 41 EU and OECD countries and looked at bottom end inequality of income, educational achievement, self-reported health and life satisfaction.

The report said the gap between rich and poor was at its highest level in three decades in most OECD countries. Across the OECD, the risks of poverty have been shifting from the elderly towards youth since the 1980’s.

“While Australia is doing comparatively well in some areas, the size of Australia’s economy suggests that the outlook for Australian children could be significantly better,” UNICEF Australia director of policy and advocacy Nicole Breeze said.

“The starkest findings in the report are Australia’s position on health and education, with inequality indicators putting Australia at 27 out of 35 for health and 24 out of 37 for education.

“Australia must place equity at the heart of our child well-being agendas and the ‘leave-no-one-behind’ principle should form the foundation of future social strategies. The evidence presented in this report card suggests that to improve overall child well-being, the most disadvantaged must not be ignored.”

The league tables rank Australia as follows:

Inequality in income Ranked number 14 out of 41
Inequality in education Ranked number 24 out of 37
Inequality in health Ranked number 27 out of 35
Inequality in life satisfaction Ranked number 2 out of 35
Average rank across all dimensions of inequality Ranked number 27 out of 35

Australia ranked in the top half of countries when it came to income inequality. However, the report said further evidence revealed concerning trends.

It said poverty was growing in Australia, with serious consequences for children. An estimated 2.5 million Australians are living below the internationally accepted poverty line, including 602,604 children (17.7 per cent of all children).

Turning to educational inequality, Australia is 24 out of 37 countries, with 9.1 per cent of 15 year olds not achieving level two in reading, maths and science literacy in 2012. This is ahead of the United Kingdom but behind the United States and Canada.

Australia’s gender differences in educational disadvantage are lower than the OECD average, with girls 3.3 percentage points less likely than boys to be in this group.

 “As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child we have committed to ensuring every child has access to an adequate standard of living. With over 17 per cent of Australian children living below the poverty line, we are failing to give all children the best start in life,” national children’s commissioner Megan Mitchell said.

“UNICEF’s Fairness for Children report highlights the widening gap between children at the bottom and those in the middle. The report asks challenging questions for Australia’s policy makers on how to address the needs of our most vulnerable children.”

UNICEF Australia said it encouraged the federal government to consider addressing systemic inequality by:

  • strengthening the national governance framework for children
  • improving the quality and access to data for monitoring and accountability
  • ensuring service delivery is culturally appropriate, coordinated and holistic
  • increasing focus on meeting the Close the Gap targets to reduce health inequality
  • improving access to support in the early years of child development.

Read the full UNICEF Report here.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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