Thursday, December 11, 2008

Canada ties for last among developed countries for child services: UNICEF

So much for our advanced welfare state. Sweden tops the list and met all the standards. Even the US beat Canada by a considerable amount by meeting 3 of the ten standards. Even a smaller country such as Slovenia managed to meet six and Iceland met nine.

Canada ties for last among developed countries for child services: UNICEF
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 11:32 PM ET
The Canadian Press
Canada fails to meet nine of out 10 proposed standards aimed at ensuring children get the best start in life through education and support programs, putting the country in a tie for last place among affluent nations, an analysis released Wednesday by UNICEF concludes.
The UNICEF benchmarks are crucial for children in their formative years, the United Nations organization says.
"We over-invest in remedial action down the line when kids reach their teen years and under-invest in the early years when their behaviour, their comportment, their learning can really be set for the rest of their lives," said Nigel Fisher, head of UNICEF Canada.
The benchmarks, which UNICEF calls practical and reachable, include providing a year of parental leave at 50 per cent or more of salary and spending one per cent of gross domestic product on childhood services.
Sweden was the only country to meet all 10 standards out of the 24 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Iceland met nine; Slovenia, which scored six out of 10, was the only non-OECD country assessed.
At the bottom, Canada and Ireland were found to reach only one benchmark: Half of staff in accredited early-education services have proper post-secondary qualifications. The United States met three.
Martha Friendly, director of the Toronto-based Childcare Resource and Research Unit, said Canada's poor showing comes as no surprise.
"The child-care transition … is being facilitated by public policies in most countries," Friendly said.
"In Canada, this has been left to be a private family responsibility. We have very weak public policy, and that would be at the national level and at the level of most of the provinces."
Friendly said the federal government needs to send an "emergency signal" showing it considers the issue important by making commitments in its budget next month.
Many countries shortchange children: report
The UNICEF report argues that many OECD countries need to almost double current levels of expenditure on early childhood services to meet minimum acceptable standards.
Canada, for example, spends roughly 0.2 per cent of its GDP on child supports, Fisher said.
The report notes that most children in the developed world are spending their earliest years in some form of care outside the home.
About 80 per cent of children aged three to six are in some form of early childhood education and care outside the home.
About one in four under the age of three are also cared for outside the home — with the proportion rising to one in two in some countries.
"What we are now witnessing across the industrialized world can fairly be described as a revolution in how the majority of young children are being brought up," the report states.
"To the extent that this change is unplanned and unmonitored, it could also be described as a high-stakes gamble with today's children and tomorrow's world."
The report emphasizes advances in recent years in scientific research that show the long-term importance of giving kids a good educational and emotional start in life — something especially key for marginalized or otherwise disadvantaged children.
© The Canadian

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