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New UNICEF report: Canada provided strong navigation in global recession, pulling 180,000 children out of poverty

2014-10-27

Now we must focus on Canada’s most vulnerable children who slid deeper into poverty

TORONTO, October 28, 2014 – A new report released today by UNICEF puts a spotlight on how children in the world’s 41 most affluent nations fared during the Great Recession (2008-2011), including Canada. While living conditions deteriorating for millions of children in the richest countries, Canada’s statistics prove this didn’t have to happen.

Report Card 12: Children of the Recession reveals that government actions sheltered many Canadian children from the worst ravages of the recession, with Canada reducing its overall child poverty rate by two percentage points. Remarkably in single parent households the rate fell by seven points. In contrast, the child poverty rate rose by an average of three percentage points across industrialized countries.

Canada’s child-focused family income benefits, like the National Child Benefit and Supplement, helped buffer children from poverty, and some provinces brought the risk of child poverty down with explicit poverty reduction targets and an increase in income benefits and services for children.

“Canada’s governments at all levels need to be commended for protecting many of our children from the brunt of a recession that wreaked havoc on the world’s strongest economies. This was the worst economic downturn since World War II, but Canada emerged from the crisis with 180,000 fewer children living in poverty. This is the good news,” says David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. “But for Canada’s most vulnerable children, conditions deteriorated, pushing them even farther below the poverty line. Canada has been a champion for children on many fronts, and we hope these efforts will continue here at home for our most at-risk children.”

Today’s Report Card revealed that while Canada was able to lower the overall child poverty rate, the child poverty gap widened by two points as the most vulnerable slipped further into poverty. Families with more than two children, indigenous children and migrant children were more likely to be poor and children continue to be at greater risk of poverty and more unemployed than the broader population. Additionally, this economic crisis brought increases in levels of family stress and a decrease in the number of Canadians who believe children have sufficient opportunities to learn and grow—ranking in the bottom third of 41 nations for the extent of the deterioration during the recession years and beyond.

“With the recession over, now is the time for all governments in Canada to build on their successful efforts and put children first in financial and policy decisions,” says Morley. “Our choices at this critical juncture will show up in the lives of our children and the productivity of Canada as a nation. If generations have defining moments, this is one of them.”

UNICEF Canada is calling on Canada to:

  1. Adopt a First Call for Children Strategy, an emergency plan ready for the next economic downturn. It should include an explicit policy that children will be the first to benefit from stimulus and the last to be affected by budget cuts, a rapid data survey to gauge how children are being affected,  a leave-no-child-out principle that ensures responses are equitable for children, and a post-crisis study by federal and provincial governments to guide recovery action.
  1. Accelerate the well-being of Canada’s children with a coordinated strategy to improve child well-being from 17th place among rich nations (in UNICEF’s Index of Child Well-being), with targets calibrated to what the best-performing nations achieve and “red-lines” below which indicators of child well-being will not be allowed to fall.

Children of the Recession Key Findings:

  • Of the 41 most affluent countries, Canada ranks 20th in the level of child poverty after the Great Recession. Child poverty in Canada is still higher than close to half of our peer countries, including some hit much harder by the recession.
  • Overall, Canada’s child poverty rate declined by two percentage points during the Recession (from 23 to 21 per cent) while child poverty increased by 3 per cent on average across 41 affluent nations (with a wide variation).
  • The child poverty gap in Canada increased by two percentage points during the downturn. Only six of 41 nations managed to reduce the child poverty gap, which is the difference between the median income of poor children and the poverty line as a percentage of the poverty line.
  • Canada’s NEET rate (rate of young people aged 15-24 not in education, employment or training) is the same today as at the start of the Recession at 10 per cent, though youth unemployment increased by two per cent since 2008. However, there has been increase in enrolment in post-secondary education and apprenticeships, showing young Canadians are doing what they can to make themselves more employable. Canada was one of a few nations in which NEET did not climb.
  • While more people reported a reduced ability to buy food and more resorted to food banks at the peak of the recession, this number began to decline by 2013.

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UNICEF’s Report Card Series

As the world’s knowledge leader for children, UNICEF is committed to collecting and sharing critical information on the situation of children around the world. For the past 12 years, UNICEF has published an annual Report Card series on the well-being of children in industrialized countries. By making this data and analysis publicly available, parliamentarians and policy makers will have the information they need to make decisions in the best interest of every child. For more information, visit www.unicef.ca/irc12 and join the online conversation with the hashtag #ChildrenoftheRecession.

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more in developing countries.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.