NZ spending well below average on children - OECD report
Last updated 09:06 02/09/2009

The New Zealand government is spending considerably less on child welfare than other OECD countries, a new report says.

The report, Doing Better for Children, was the first time the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had reported on child well-being within its 30 member countries.

It identified New Zealand's biggest shortfall as its limited spending on young children (aged five and under), which was less than half the OECD average.

New Zealand was also struggling in terms of health, with the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD and an above-average child mortality rate.

Children lived in poor material conditions, average family incomes were low by OECD standards and child poverty rates were high.

While children had high rates of educational achievement, there were large gaps between top and bottom performers.

Immunisation rates for measles were the second-worst in the OECD, and for whooping cough, the fifth-worst.

The report said the government should spend considerably more on younger, disadvantaged children and make sure high rates of spending on older children met the needs of the disadvantaged.

France, Germany, Britain and Belgium spent the most on children while Switzerland, Ireland, Australia and Italy spent the least, the Associated Press reported.

Despite spending more than the OECD average on children, the United States and Britain both had high teenage pregnancy rates.

The US was among the worst countries in terms of infant mortality and child poverty and Britain's underage drinking rates were the worst in the OECD.

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria acknowledged that the global financial downturn had squeezed public budgets around the world, Agence France Presse reported.

"But any short-term savings on spending on children's education and health would have major long-term costs for society," he warned.

From here.