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NZ Rated Poorly in UNICEF Report on Child Well-Being

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New Zealand has been rated poorly in a new report from UNICEF that measures child well-being

New Zealand was not featured in the report’s main league table due to insufficient data; however, the country did not fare well in some of the categories contained in the report. The report looked at five areas of wellbeing: material well-being, health, education, behaviours and risks, and housing and environment.

Overall, the Netherlands was deemed the best country for child wellbeing with Sweden, Norway and Finland the next best countries. Romania came bottom of the table.

New Zealand did well in some categories, such as performance in reading, maths, science, and literacy where the country was ranked 4th out of 33 countries. Immunisation rates were also increasing.

However, it did not fare so well in other categories including the number of young people not in any form of education, training, or employment, the number of young people in higher education and levels of child poverty.

UNCIEF New Zealand National Advocacy Manager Barbara Lambourn said the report showed New Zealand had more work to do.

''It's clear from the comparisons where New Zealand is measured, that there is much progress yet to be made on the wellbeing of our youngest citizens,'' she said. “The report makes it clear that the costs of not safeguarding child wellbeing are a burden to the whole of society - not just for children growing up in poverty or deprivation.''

The report concluded that the wellbeing of children, particularly in the early years was not well recorded in many countries.

It said “The almost total absence of nationwide data on the developmental progress of very young children may reflect the fact that the importance of early childhood development has only relatively recently been brought to public and political prominence. In part, also, it may reflect the traditional view that the collection of data on the lives of the very young is impractical, potentially intrusive, and of limited relevance to public policy”.

The lack of data could be attributed to a lack of an easily applicable measure of children’s development in the early years, the report said, concluding that that without such data collection it was hard to make sensible policies, see where expenditure should be targeted or set goals.

The report highlighted an Australian scheme called the Australian Early Development Index, which has been in use since 2009 as a way of monitoring development in young children. A similar scheme is used in Canada. The index is used to monitor new school entrants in their first year of schooling and includes questions such as how often has the child arrived at school too tired to do schoolwork and would you say that this child is generally interested in books. 

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