UN says cuts hurting kids in rich nations

April 16, 2013

The United Nations warned on April 10 that austerity measures in richer, developed countries were hitting children hard. Most European governments have turned to austerity measures to cover their bankers' gambling losses.

Social and economic policy research head UN children's agency Unicef Chris de Neubourg, said that they must reflect on how their cuts are affecting children. Instead of sparing today's children a future burden they are, in many cases, “presenting the bill to the children now,” risking "”letting them pay both now and in the future,” he told reporters in Geneva.

The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden were listed by Unicef as the best countries for children to live in, while Romania ranked last out of the 29 nations in the comparison.

The US came in at a dismal 26th place in the UN agency's report, landing among the bottom third in all five categories measured: children's material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviour and risks and housing and environment.

The clear differences between countries with similar economies, showed that child poverty “is not inevitable, but policy susceptible,” Unicef said, pointing out that “some countries are doing much better than others at protecting their most vulnerable children”.

Amid growing pressure on many governments to implement austerity measures, it is important that they realise the impact their decisions on where to cut will have on children and their futures, de Neubourg said.

Due to the difficulty digging up comparable statistics, he pointed out that most of the data used in the so-called 2011 report card is actually from 2009-2010, and therefore does not accurately reflect the impact the past couple of years' focus on austerity has had on children.

Among southern Europe's most austerity-hit countries, for instance, only Greece and Italy figure among the bottom third of countries, while Portugal and Spain still hovered near the middle.

“We are a little bit afraid of what we will find in the next report,” he warned.

[Reprinted from Morning Star.]

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