Report: The State of Children in the European Union 2024

Report: The State of Children in the European Union 2024

20 million children in European Union Member States are at risk of poverty or social inclusion, according to a new report, The State of Children in the European Union 2024, published by the UNICEF Office for Relations with EU Institutions, last week.

Analysis of child well-being and progress in the European Union 2019-2024

UNICEF, a global organisation promoting and protecting children’s rights, has published this report ahead of the European Parliament elections in June “to inform the European Union’s vision for children and future generations” and to make recommendations to the European Union (EU). The report analyses child well-being and progress for children in the European Union during the current legislature, 2019-2024, and identifies key issues for the next political cycle.

There were an estimated 81 million children in the EU at the beginning of 2022, amounting to approximately 18 per cent of the total population (446 million people).

Findings of the UNICEF report

The report analysed four areas of focus and particular relevance to debates at EU level. The four areas and the main findings are as follows:

1. Economic factors and child poverty – approximately 20 million (1 in 4) children in the 27 countries of the EU are at risk of poverty or social inclusion. This means that they live in households with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Severe material and social deprivation – an enforced lack of basic conditions e.g. unable to heat their home.
  • At risk of poverty – households with an income below 60 per cent of the national median income.
  • Low-work intensity – households where adults work less than 20 percent of their total working potential.

2.  Mental health services provision – over 11 million children and young people aged 19 and younger in the EU are living with a mental health condition. Suicide is the second most common cause of death (after traffic accidents) among people aged between 15 and 19.

3. Environmental factors – 1 in 20 children (380,000 children) in the EU is exposed to high levels of pesticide pollution.

4. Digital Technologies – one third of children aged 10 years old living in the EU could not tell if a website was trustworthy, while 13 per cent of 12-16-year-olds in the EU have received unwanted sexual requests online multiple times. 5% of children aged 15, living in the most disadvantaged households, lacked access to the internet in their home, compared to less than 1 per cent in the most advantaged households.

UNICEF recommendations to the European Union

UNICEF’s recommendations to the EU in 2024 are:

  1. Safeguard and strengthen recent progress made on children’s rights. UNICEF says that it is vital that children’s rights “stay high on the political agenda 2024-29.” The organisation calls for:
    • The European Child Guarantee to the fully implemented.
    • A multi-sectoral mental health strategy.
    • Updated and enforced legislation to protect children from recognised and emerging risks of violence in the digital environment, while at the same time addressing the digital divide and equitable access to digital learning and skills.
    • Priority must be given to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
  1. Increase investment in children in the EU.
    • Children’s rights must be included in current and future EU funding opportunities and instruments.
  1. Strengthen governance for children.
    • The impact on child’s rights should be systematically considered in all future EU policy making and legislation.
  1. Improve the evidence base with a new EU data collection strategy that includes children.
    • UNICEF recommends the establishment of a Eurostat task force on statistics on children to improve the availability, integration and disaggregation of statistics on children.
Get in touch

If you have any questions or would like to know more about Early Childhood Ireland’s policy work, please do not hesitate to contact us at policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie

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