Irish child poverty rates set to get worse

Rates of child deprivation and poverty in Ireland compare favourably with other developed countries but Unicef has waned “the worst is yet to come”.

A new Unicef report, Measuring Child Poverty, has ranked countries in relation to child poverty levels across the world’s wealthiest nations.

In the new league, Ireland ranks eighth out of 29 “economically advanced countries” in terms of child deprivation — ahead of countries such as Britain, Germany and Spain but behind all the Scandinavian countries, as well as Holland and Luxembourg.

According to the analysis, 4.9% of Irish children lack two or more of 14 listed items because the households in which they live cannot afford them. The criteria includes three meals a day, money to participate in school trips and events, and some new clothes.

However, the data was gathered in 2009 as part of the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions, as were the figures in a separate table of relative child poverty.

In that table, Ireland ranks 12th with 8.4% of children experiencing relative poverty — living in a household in which disposable income is less than 50% of the national median income.

The time lag between the data gathered and the current situation is highlighted in the report, which states: “Front-line services for families are everywhere under strain as austerity measures increase the numbers in need while depleting the services available. It is also clear that the worst is yet to come.

“Many families, even those on low incomes, have some form of ‘cushion’ — whether in the form of savings, assets, or help from other family members — by which to maintain spending during difficult times.

“There is therefore almost always a time lag between the onset of an economic crisis and the full extent of its impact.

“Although currently thought to be stable, the child poverty rate is predicted to begin rising again in 2013”.

It also criticised the underlying weak monitoring of child poverty and how it should be defined and measured, based on data at “least two to three years old”.

“This would be bad enough at the best of times. But these are not the best of times. And it is a significant failing, on behalf of many governments of OECD countries, that the available data on children’s lives do not yet reflect the impact of the economic downturn.”

Yet another table, again based on 2009 statistics, shows the child poverty rate in Ireland exceeds the overall poverty rate. It warns failing to provide for children now, will store up problems later on in the form of reduced skills and societal damage.

“Levels of ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’ child poverty are expected to reach 24% and 23% respectively by 2020/21 — compared to the target figures of 10% and 5%. This would mean a return to the relative child poverty levels of two decades ago.”

* See the report here or on www.unicef.ie


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