03 September 2009

Doing better for Canadian children

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its first-ever report on child well-being in the 30 countries that make up its membership. Canada receives solid marks, but there are areas which need attention.

The report compares child well-being using six yardsticks, chosen to cover the major aspects of children's lives: material well-being, housing and environment, education, health and safety, risk behaviours, and quality of school life. Canada does particularly well in education, ranking third out of 30. The performance of Canadian 15-year olds is high and the gap between good and poorly performing students is small. Only Finland and South Korea showed better outcomes.

Our child poverty rates are less impressive, however. Fifteen per cent of Canadian children live in poor households compared to the OECD average of 12 per cent. Two other weak areas are immunizations and suicides. We immunize less than many other countries and our suicide rates for 15-19 year olds are 50 per cent higher than the OECD average.

Risk behaviour is a mixed bag. While the smoking rate of Canadian teenagers is half the OECD average, only Britain, Denmark and Finland have higher rates of drunkenness.

Indeed our overall performance is a mixed bag. We do well by our children in some respects, not in others. Obviously we can do much better.

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