Child poverty in the Republic down by almost 20% - Unicef

Top-ranking countries include Slovenia and Poland, those at the bottom include UK and France

Child poverty in the Republic fell by 19 per cent – almost one-fifth – helped largely by targeted social welfare interventions between 2014 and 2021, the latest report from Unicef has found.

The report, the 18th in a series entitled Child Poverty in the Midst of Wealth, ranks 39 countries based on their ability and efforts to eradicate child poverty, over a period of general prosperity.

It looked at high-income and upper middle-income countries in the EU and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to assess the current state of child poverty and progress countries have made towards its elimination in the period between 2012-14 and 2019-21.

Ireland came in 10th in the list of 39 countries in efforts to tackle child poverty, based on average data from 2019–2021.


But it found one in seven children in the Republic are still living in poverty and more than one in 10 experience prolonged poverty, defined as lasting at least three consecutive years.

The top ranked countries – those most successful at reducing child poverty – were Slovenia, Poland and Latvia. At the bottom of the rankings are France, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Colombia.

The report stressed the importance of “cash transfers” or social protection payments in the efforts countries make to create change and so to alleviate children’s poverty. “Cash benefits deserve particular attention due to their immediate effect on household resources,” the report said.

In relation to Ireland it said universal benefits or affluence-tested benefits “provide protection for families with children”.

The report’s emphasis on cash transfers as being one of the most immediate tools to use in alleviating child poverty echoes a report on child poverty in Ireland, published by Social Justice Ireland in October.

The Social Justice Ireland report said “recent years have seen long overdue improvements in Ireland’s child poverty rate; driven in particular by targeted welfare payments for families”. However, Social Justice Ireland said “the scale of this problem remains alarming”.

Unicef said a country’s wealth was not directly comparable to its measure of child poverty. It noted that as countries emerged from the last global recession in 2012, not all wealthy countries were successful in efforts to tackle child poverty. It cites the UK which it said saw a 19.6 per cent jump in child poverty figures and France which saw a 10.4 per cent jump.

The Unicef report also found children living in a lone-parent family were more than three times as likely to be living in poverty as other children. Children with disabilities and from minority ethnic/racial backgrounds are also at higher-than-average risk.

In the United States, 30 per cent of African-American children and 29 per cent of Native American children live below the national poverty line, compared with only one in 10 non-Hispanic white children, according to the report. In the EU, a child with parents of non-EU nationality was more than twice as likely to live in poverty.

“For most children this means that they may grow up without enough nutritious food, clothes, school supplies or a warm place to call home,” said Unicef’s Bo Viktor Nylund.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist