I fully expected that somebody who read yesterday’s ridiculous Unicef report on ‘Child Well-Being’ would expose its twaddle in today’s papers. Here’s the Times leader:
Save the Children (from Nonsense)
Unicef’s report card on child wellbeing is tosh mixed with bias
Concerned British parents are to be commended for not pulling their children peremptorily out of school and stampeding to Norway and the Netherlands. The latest Unicef “report card” on child wellbeing in rich countries certainly gave them apparent reasons to do so. It ranked Britain 18th out of 21 OECD members in terms of its children’s material wellbeing; bottom of the table in terms of the quality of their family and peer relationships; 20th out of 21 for “subjective wellbeing”; and a dismal worst overall. Children’s charities, which are becoming dangerously political, have seized on these conclusions as evidence of a long-hidden crisis. The truth is that from its key premises to its sources and methodology this report is flawed, biased and a blatant abuse of the trust that many readers misguidedly place in documents published under the Unicef banner.
There is no new research in the report. Much of its data is drawn from a seven-year-old survey by the OECD programme for international student assessment and a six-year-old World Health Organisation study of “health behaviour in school-age children”. None of it relates to pre-school-age children. And it places heavy emphasis on relative as opposed to absolute child poverty on the ground that “the cutting edge of poverty is the contrast . . . between the lives of the poor and the lives of those around them”.
What unalloyed, ideological nonsense. Let’s punish rich and successful countries whose working classes, by global standards, are unimaginably wealthy. “Not having the right trainers”, as one of the report’s researchers put it yesterday, is apparently worse for a child’s wellbeing than having none at all. The report acknowledges that “relative poverty” means an average family income of $24,000 or less in the US (21st out of 21 in this ranking) but just $7,000 or less in Hungary (13th). Yet it takes scant account of this in its conclusions. It also ignores data showing a 50 per cent cut in the number of British children in absolute poverty since 1998, all lifted out of misery, ultimately, by the market economy that charities’ staff rely on for generosity but abhor as a matter of self-serving personal principle.
The report’s conclusion states that “all families in OECD countries today are aware that childhood is being reshaped by forces whose mainspring is not necessarily in the best interests of the child”. This is a coded claim that “all families” agree on capitalism’s malign impact on childhood. In fact, as the report’s own figures on deprivation show, the world’s most advanced capitalist economies are its least deprived. Yet these figures, too, are way out of date.
The reason for using such antiquated data is that more recent, less attractive figures did not allow easy global comparisons. Yet even the comparisons drawn here range from unreliable to absurd. The Czech Republic emerges with the highest level of fighting among children and the lowest level of bullying. The UK, meanwhile, has data showing that 76 per cent of British children feel their parents “are always there” for them. But since no other country has equivalent data, it does not feature in Britain’s overall ranking.
Peter Adamson, the writer of this report, co-founded the staunchly left-wing New Internationalist in the 1970s. He has now invited ridicule by caricaturing the world’s most dynamic economies as Dickensian child-abusers. This report hides the truth about children’s wellbeing behind an outdated ideology that has condemned hundreds of millions of children to cruel poverty
I make no apologies for bashing this one again, because this Unicef report, and the way it was presented on, for example, the BBC News, really sums up everything that is worst about the self-lacerating, wilfully deluded, truth-distorting, anti-reality, intentions-over-outcomes element of the intellectual leftist ‘elite’ (and indeed, the Daily Mail hard right). It is nothing but an excuse to condemn capitalism - the very thing upon which charities rely - veiled in intelligence-insultingly transparent statistical nonsense.
The way the report is written is bizarre in itself. As Oroborous notes in the other post, the author tells you that this is nonsense, and then says it anyway.
This is from the conclusion:
It is best regarded as a work in progress, in need of improved definitions and better data. But in the process it is easy to become ensnared in the data and to lose sight of what it is that we are trying to capture. ….The measures used in this report fall short of such nuanced knowledge.
Findings that have been recorded and averaged may create an impression of precision but are in reality the equivalent of trying to reproduce a vast and complex mountain range in relatively simple geometric shapes. In addition, the process of international comparison can never be freed from questions of translation, culture, and custom
The areas they’ve chosen to analyse, the weighting they’ve applied in the rankings and the use of relative poverty are all entirely arbitrary. But even if they weren't, given that this is the first and only report of its kind, we can have no way of knowing if things are getting worse or better - but they want you to assume that things are getting worse.
So it isn’t arbitrary at all: it’s all quite deliberately set up to attack capitalism and the Anglosphere. It is designed to get blithering idiots to scream out on-the-face-of-it absurd headlines like: “Child poverty in the UK has doubled since 1979”. Thank you, BBC, for doing just that.