Child Poverty in East Asia and the Pacific: Shared Vision, Different Strategies: a Study of Seven Countries in the EAP Region

Alberto Minujin • Diego Born • Skye Dobson • Qimti Paienjton
Conference paper Child Poverty and Social Protection Conference • September 2013 Cambodia • Mongolia • Philippines • Thailand • Vanuatu

Abstract

Poverty reduction begins with children. A child's experience of poverty is very different from that of an adult. Income is but one dimension among many that should be assessed when analyzing child poverty and disparity. Non-monetary deprivation in dimensions such as shelter, food, water, sanitation, education, health, and information is equally, if not more, revealing. Since deprivation along these dimensions can have significant negative consequences on a child's development and future, an examination of multidimensional child poverty and associated disparities is clearly warranted. As part of UNICEF's Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparity, several countries in East Asia and the Pacific have undertaken national child poverty and disparity studies. In this paper, results from seven of those countries, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vanuatu and Viet Nam, are reviewed. The objective is to identify trends and lessons, generate strategies for UNICEF EAPRO, and to contribute toward a richer conceptualization of the situation of children in the region. Data from the aforementioned countries indicates substantial reductions in the percentage of children who are severely deprived, with rates falling by one third from 56% in 2000 to 36% in 2006. The percentage of children who suffer from multiple severe deprivations nearly halved, from 27% in 2000 to 14% in 2006. While improvements can be observed in most dimensions of child wellbeing, the multidimensional deprivation analysis reveals that the most statistically significant improvements were found in the water and sanitation dimensions. However, the analysis also reveals that despite these gains, over 30 million children in the seven countries suffer from at least one severe deprivation. This is more acute in certain segments of the population, representing critical equity challenges. The most notable dimensions of inequity include disparities between rural and urban areas, between provinces or sub-national regions, between different ethnic groups, between small and large households, and between households headed by well-educated and poorly educated adults. Although severe deprivation is visible across all wealth quintiles, children from the poorest and second poorest wealth quintiles are much more likely to be severely deprived compared to children from the richest quintile. Much more can and must be done in each of the seven countries to reduce inequities that block opportunities for children.

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