Child poverty is a big risk to well-being
Poverty in the childhood family impairs children’s well-being and can have long-term consequences into adulthood. It poses a great risk to adult health and the ability to study and work. Poverty in families with children and its impact can be reduced through appropriate measures.
Almost 12 percent of children in Finland live in low-income families, which means 121,000 children and young people under the age of 18. There are many factors behind poverty. Unemployment, long-term illness or incapacity for work are some of the reasons that can lead to financial difficulties.
It should be noted that almost half of the families with children who are below the poverty line have a guardian who works. In Finland, having a low income despite being employed specifically affects families with children. There are also many low-income families in which one or both parents are students.
One of the key factors is the number of adults of working age in the household: 10 percent of children in two-parent families live in a household with low income, while the figure is 21 percent for children in single-parent families.
It hurts to be an outsider
Financial hardship impairs the well-being of both children and parents. In families with babies and toddlers, parents’ worries about money affect their ability to meet their children’s needs. Babies develop by interacting with their parents, which explains why poverty experienced in early childhood is the most damaging.
For older children, their family’s ability to spend money affects their status among their peers. Children from low-income families cannot do the same things as their friends can, which is why they are often left out. They are also more likely to be bullied. Children from low-income families also have less faith in their potential and chance for a good future.
How can we reduce poverty?
It is difficult to eradicate poverty among families with children, but it can be reduced and its effects mitigated with the right policies. The most important issue would be to improve the level of basic and minimum security, which has fallen behind the general wage growth. The combination of earned income, benefits and taxation should also reconsidered since the equalising effect of transfer payments and taxation on income gaps has weakened.
The high cost of housing increases financial problems especially in growth centres. This situation can be improved by developing housing subsidies and increasing the supply of affordable homes.
One key measure to mitigate the effects of poverty is to guarantee everyone access to education. Introducing free upper-secondary education has been a major reform. The high quality of education must be guaranteed in early childhood education, basic education as well as in upper-secondary level, and there must be sufficient resources for student welfare services.
The Covid pandemic has exacerbated the differences in well-being and learning between children as stressed parents have found it difficult to support their children. Services for families with children have been reduced at the same time, resulting in backlogs. The crisis will have long-term effects on children’s well-being if families’ growing need for support is not met quickly.