Doing better for children

Children are our future; they are also individuals who have a right to their own well-being. According to the OECD's first-ever report on child well-being, Doing Better for Children, the adult world of government is not doing enough to uphold that right. On average across the OECD area, public spending on children under the age of five represents just 24% of all spending on children up to the age of 18. The report argues that increasing spending on our youngest citizens, particularly in the areas of health and education, and especially for disadvantaged children, will help to improve social equity as those children grow up.

The analysis covers such diverse data as infant mortality rates, the incidence of bullying at school and inter-generational inequality in education and income. The report also compares the levels and targets of government spending on and transfers to children among 28 OECD countries. One chapter is devoted to child well-being and single parenthood, reflecting the fact that virtually all OECD countries have seen a rise in the numbers of children brought up in single-parent households over the past 20 years.

Doing Better for Children offers policy makers a variety of recommendations to improve the lives of children. These range from encouraging parents to stop smoking and improving the diets of expectant mothers, to targeting intensive pre- and post-natal care towards vulnerable mothers and infants, to redirecting spending on schools from advantaged to disadvantaged children. The report also calls on all countries to collect more high-quality information about children's well-being, as children are often "statistically invisible". The book's main message is as simple as ABC: invest early in all children. That investment, particularly for vulnerable children, is one of the building blocks towards a more equitable society.

©OECD Observer No 274, October 2009

ISBN 978-92-64-05993-7

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