Child poverty levels in the UK worst among world’s richest nations, UNICEF report finds

LONDON (Reuters) – Child income poverty rates in the United Kingdom were the highest among the world’s richest countries, a report by U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said, ranking bottom of the table for changes in those rates in the past decade.

The UNICEF report, published on Wednesday, looked at relatively well-off countries to assess the rate of child income poverty combined with child poverty reduction rates.

Britain ranked 37th out of the 39 nations in the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based on income poverty rate for children and their success in reducing child poverty in a time of prosperity.

Only Turkey and Colombia ranked below Britain, based on a statistical average of the two indicators.

When measuring percentage changes in child income poverty rates in 2012-14 and 2019-21, the United Kingdom lay bottom of the table of 39 high- and upper middle-income countries, with a 20% rise in child poverty rates.

At the other end of the spectrum, Poland, Slovenia and Latvia topped the rankings with a reduction in child poverty rates by more than 30%.

The United Kingdom also ranked 28th out of 39 countries on the most recent relative child income poverty levels in 2019-21.

“While some countries in this group have taken steps to increase support, in the UK we have seen a reduction in spending on child and family benefits and more children growing up in poverty as a result,” Chief Executive of UNICEF UK Jon Sparkes said.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for Britain’s Work and Pensions department said they had worked hard to halve inflation and are providing households help with the cost of living, “including increasing benefits by over 10% this year.”

“There are 400,000 fewer children and 1.7 million fewer people in absolute poverty when compared to 2010. But we understand some families are still struggling,” the department said.

(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Bill Berkrot)