Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It’s a hard knock life

The UK has been accused of failing its children, as it comes bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries.

[...] The Unicef study found Britain had the lowest proportion of children who found their friends kind and helpful - 40%, compared to 80% in Switzerland, he went on.

Professor Bradshaw said that this was an indication of a "dog eat dog society".

Chimney sweeps, powder-monkeys and street urchins, that’s our kids.

(My American friends might like to note that the US came second-bottom of the 24. And that those usual social paradises and teacher’s pets the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark were top. Which tells you all you need to know about this report.)


monix said...

The full report makes more interesting and informative reading than your summary suggests. Despite its flaws, it presents a worrying picture of the consequences of individualism.

Brit said...

First, it seems to be mostly based on the child's willingness to utter a bunch of platitudes in a survey.

Second, it is meaningless without a time comparison, so we don't know if things are getting better or worse.

Third, the child poverty stats are based on 'relative poverty' to the country's median income, which is a completely meaningless approach and explains why the US (the world's richest country) is bottom, and the UK second bottom. This alone highlights the predictable stupidity of the typical UN/EU/transnational approach to these matters.

monix said...

You are obviously basing your views on headlines. Look at the report.

Brit said...

No, I'm disagreeing with the headlines because I've looked at the report..

Peter Burnet said...

This list comes pretty close to an accurate description of which countries have an ethos of self-criticism/whining and which top the charts in smugness. Sad to see the kids have picked that up so young.

I am looking forward to hearing what your Minister for Children intends to do to make everybody's pals kinder and more helpful.

Brit said...

This business of using 'relative poverty' to draw lessons instead of real poverty actually angers me.

It allows you to say things like "child poverty in the UK has doubled since 1979". (Why 'child' poverty in particular even?) It allows you to paint a picture of success and prosperity as a disaster. It puts the USA at the bottom and allows the idiots to completely turn reality on its head and argue against the very things that have created wealth. It is insane.

monix said...

Using only 'real' poverty measurement, a child who suffers neglect because his parents spend their income on alcohol or drugs would not be counted as poor. Most things are relative, certainly for children.

Had I not retired, I would welcome this report as an aid to evaluating and planning services for children.

Oroborous said...

The report is Kafkaesque.

On page 3, they acknowledge that there is insufficient data for them to make many of the comparisons, but they go ahead and make them anyway, and on page 6, they write that they are defining "poverty" to include people who lack for nothing. Indeed, they admit that many of the children that they claim are "living in poverty" in rich nations are actually far better off than those that they claim are well-cared-for in less-wealthy nations.

It's an exercise in justifying a departmental budget, and is mostly a work of fiction - which they admit straightaway.

Duck said...

This report would put a child from a family where mom and dad work away from the home fulltime in a position of greater advantage than an identical family where the mother stayed home to take care of the child. It's a ridiculous standard.

Relative poverty is a crock. The character and behavior of the parents matter much, much more than the relative wealth of the family. The only way that a young person would get the idea that he is disadvantaged relative to his peers is if some meddlesome adult from UNICEF told him so.

I think a better measure of child welfare might just be to measure the kind of adults that these children turn into. I dare someone to compare the national ranking in this report with the national rankings for suicide. I bet the high scorers in the first are the high scorers for the most suicides. If you inflate children with too much unearned esteem, you're setting them up for an awfully disappointing adulthood. Especially in the socialized economies of Europe where the work rules are not there to ensure that each person fulfills his potentialities, but that whoever is able to get a job will be guaranteed a steady income from that job until they qualify for a state pension.

monix said...

I'd take you guys more seriously if you left your privileged ivory towers and went to work among 'real' kids in ordinary schools or at least found out what is happening to them.
The report has limitations but it is not invalid. Leave out the subjective section ( a tiny fraction of the whole) and you have facts. Some of those are now 3 years out of date but my 'real' experience tells me that, while there have been improvements in some areas, the latest figures in others would be depressingly worse.

I issue an open invitation to anyone who wants to see real child poverty in the prosperous UK. I promise you, we won't have to look very hard.

M Ali said...

It would be helpful if you could supply more detail. In what ways are children in the UK worse off than children elsewhere? Putting Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary ahead of us does seem a weird basis for determining children are better off there.

Are these kids experiencing actual poverty? That's to say lack of access to health, water, food, education, shelter etc.? Are they being forced into begging, child labour and prostitution?

Brit said...


Nobody is denying that there are poor people in Britain. (Though there are none who would be considered poor in say, India.)

What we object to is the general lessons they are trying to draw - or push us towards - from phoney national comparisons.

You're not going to like the next post.

monix said...

m ali:
I can only give anecdotal evidence from my own experience, no actual data. There are families, mostly single mothers with several children, housed by Social Services in bed and breakfast accommodation. They have to leave the building after breakfast, the school age children are okay Monday to Friday because they go to school; the mother and younger children spend the day walking the streets and in bad weather seeking shelter in laundromats. This sounds like something from a Dickens novel but it is happening, at this moment, just 9 miles from my comfortable seat.

These children may not be starving, they get free school meals, but their 'relative poverty' is very real for them.

David said...

I haven't seen a word about this report in the US press. Maybe I've missed it, but this is the sort of thing we usually eat up with a spoon.