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Child poverty rises

A few decades ago the poorest in society were most likely to be pensioners. Now children are taking over that mantle, as poverty in households with children rises in nearly all OECD countries. Indeed, families with children are more likely to be poor today than in previous decades, according to Doing Better for Families, a new OECD report.

The share of children living in poor households has risen in many countries over the past decade, to reach 12.7% across the OECD. One in five children in Israel, Mexico, Turkey, Poland and the US live in poverty. (The OECD defines “poor” as someone living in a household with less than half the median income, adjusted for family size). Yet there are more dual-earner than one-earner families in almost every country. And female employment in the OECD has risen by more than 10 percentage points in the past 15 years, nearing 60% in 2009. The report argues that women are better educated too, overtaking men in the process.

Could higher women’s employment help reduce child poverty? Not necessarily, say the authors, and recommend measures to help families combine work and care commitments, meet childcare costs and better integrate their leave, care and workplace needs. Men must help out more with housework and non-paid caring work too. More investment is also needed in early childhood, and in linking high-quality services to cognitive development for poorer children in particular.


©OECD Observer No 284, Q1 2011