(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)
Countless businesses and individuals around the world were hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.
A new report released by UNICEF has revealed that children in affluent countries are among those who have been suffering the most.
Michael Kenny has this report by Widyan Al Ubudy.
(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)
2.6 million – that’s how many children in the world’s most affluent countries have officially slipped under the poverty line since the global financial crisis.
A new report titled ‘Children of recession’ reveals the total number of children in the developed world living in poverty is estimated to be 76.5 million.
UNICEF social and economic policy expert, Yekaterina Chzhen says countries that were hardest hit by the global financial crisis, ranked poorly in child poverty.
“At the bottom child poverty ranking we have countries like Iceland, Greece, Latvia, Croatia, Ireland, Spain, Lithuania, Luxemburg and Italy, have seen living standards of children and young people fall more. While countries like Poland, Australia and Chile that have not been caught up in the economic crisis quiet in the same way, although they also suffered to some extent but at the same time they weren’t at the epic centre of the crisis.”
The United States also ranked poorly, with the report finding child poverty increased more in the recent downturn than during the recession of 1982.
However, for Australia it was good news.
Since 2008 child poverty rates dropped from 19 to 13 precent.
Director of Social Policy at the Australian National University, Professor Peter Whiteford, says the stimulation package and the former government’s economic growth are partly responsible for the improvement.
“UNICEF argue that when you look at we didn’t have the drop in income that occurred in other countries, they out that down mainly to the stimulus package at the time and they point out that in order to have the stimulus package we also had the previous government’s economic growth and repairing the budget balance. So it was a combination of having the financial resources to dealing with the GFC.”
UNICEF says poverty in developed nations is different to the poverty line referred to in third world countries.
The report measured poverty in rich countries using the country’s median income and comparing household earnings to the country average.
In Australia, children were deemed to be living in poverty if the household income was below $50,000 a year with two parents and at least two children living in the household.
“So when you’re asking me whether these children are very poor, if they have enough to eat, we don’t really know that because we’re only looking at the household income and what it is in relation to the average household in relation to the average household income in their society.”
Despite Australia improving its world ranking, the report warned that issues such as high youth unemployment could see the country go backwards, as some other countries have.
“In places like Spain they’ve gone back about eight years. In Greece they’ve lost 14 years of economic growth, a massive impact on family incomes. About half of the countries they look at show a significant deterioration in child poverty when measured this way.”
UNICEF has called on all countries to make child wellbeing a priority in their response to the recession.
UNICEF says it cannot recommend specific policies, but governments should consider children in all their economic and social policies to minimise further increases in poverty rates in the next generation.