Making the case for investing in children

Despite Europe being the wealthiest region in the world, the latest Eurostat data for 2022 shows one in four children is at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU - how can better data remedy this?
Making the case for investing in children
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Despite Europe being the wealthiest region in the world, the latest Eurostat data for 2022 show one in four children is at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU – that’s approx. 19.6 million or 24.7%. In European countries outside of the EU, things are not much better. Any progress made in the last decades has been stalled by COVID and the multiple crises of recent years.

There are also other deeply entrenched dynamics of inequality and worrying trends – growth of family homelessness, rising numbers of children suffering from mental health issues, lack of suitable and quality options for early childhood education and care, and for children in alternative care.

We know that children’s journey through childhood in Europe is vastly different depending on their family composition, and whether they are growing up in vulnerable circumstances (such as Roma children or children from migrant/refugee contexts, and children with disabilities).

Better data are needed so that allocated funding and the right interventions go where most needed.

Eurochild published a new report Children's Rights: Political will or won't? which compiles information gathered from 38 Eurochild members in 26 countries across Europe and provides an overview of the current situation of children in these countries. The report aims to identify good and promising practices, working solutions, and country-specific recommendations for EU decision-makers and national governments to draw from when addressing children’s needs.

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To address the needs of children, understanding the problem is critical. Issues to be addressed and needs that children face must be well analysed to uncover the underlying roots of the problem. The analysis should be based on data and evidence as well as consultation with the stakeholders, including children themselves. Upgrading data collection is crucial because we need to know where we are starting from to identify both success and what is not working. We call for disaggregated data collection on children and specific indicators for children. Investing in efficient and effective data collection must be prioritised with clear, multi-sectoral, and comparable metrics.

Comprehensive and comparable data are essential at both the national and European level to inform policy and public investment in children

The need for a stronger (and more effectively applied) evidence base

At Eurochild, we have been working for many years to advocate for better data to help decision-makers design better policies and subsequently allocate more funding for children in need. For example:

  • Our DataCare project, in partnership with UNICEF, has a broad vision for European data systems on children in alternative care, whereby all countries in Europe commit to measuring the outcomes and impact of their reforms to transition from institutional to family and community-based care. This includes reporting quality data on the total number of children entering, remaining in, and leaving alternative care using common definitions and methodologies to ensure comparability within and across countries. It is ambitious but achievable if political, technical, and financial support is mobilised. We have had some really promising developments with the Child Guarantee, where we are calling for an indicator – the first of its kind at an EU level – to track the rate of children in different types of alternative care (family/residential/other types of care).
  • We have summarised all the Child Guarantee National Action Plans (NAPs) published on the European Commission’s website. We wanted to draw attention to the children and the key services that each government was targeting but also the data they were using to identify the children. This has been a good tool for our members to use at national level. The Child Guarantee monitoring framework is a really important opportunity to both push for more and different data on children to be collected; and also for better use of this data to deliver better polices and interventions that can improve the lives of children most in need in European society.
  • Inclusive participation, including the involvement of children, families, and communities is crucial, as it generates shared understanding, and shared ownership. Eurochild not only works for children, but also with children and believes children are experts on their own lives. We focus in particular on involving children growing up in vulnerable circumstances, as they are often the least heard. Eurochild has become the leading organisation on child participation in Europe and this has led the EU to embed child participation as a mandatory requirement in its funding programmes. Child participation is also one of the key priorities of the EU strategy on the rights of the child. Together with the Council of Europe and our members, Eurochild has helped create and test child participation indicators, included in the Child Participation Assessment Tool, to help governments capture how well they are doing in implementing meaningful child participation.

Comprehensive and comparable data are essential at both the national and European level to inform policy and public investment in children. We need to make the case for improved data focusing on children below the age of 18. Building on wellbeing comparisons and policy work in Europe, we need to strengthen nationally collected statistics with academic rigour and skill at contextualisation, which in turn will lead to more informed policymaking.


Learn more about OECD's work on Children

Our work on children and child well-being helps countries design policies that ensure every child can have the best possible start in life. We monitor progress on child well-being outcomes and provide policy assistance and advice to make sure children have the opportunities they need for a bright future.


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