Children’s early years are crucial and that is the time when governments should strongly support them. Investing more money on children in the first six years of their lives would reduce social inequality and help all children, especially the most vulnerable, have happier lives, according to the OECD’s first-ever report on child well-being in its 30 member countries.
The report shows that average public spending by OECD countries up to age six accounts for only a quarter of all child spending. But a better balance of spending between the “Dora the Explorer” years of early childhood and the teenage “Facebook” years would help improve the health, education and well-being of all children in the long term, according to Doing Better for Children.
“The crisis is putting pressure on public budgets across the world. But any short-term savings on spending on children’s education and health would have major long-term costs for society,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Spending early, when the foundations for a child’s future are laid, is key especially for disadvantaged children and can help them break out of a family cycle of poverty and social exclusion."
The report is advocating providing more cash benefits in the pre-school years, strengthening pre- and post-natal services and early childhood education, especially to children in disadvantaged families, supporting breast-feeding and teaching parents the importance of a healthy diet and the risks of smoking.
Many countries concentrate child spending in compulsory education. But often, school systems are not designed to address the problems of disadvantaged children. More of this money should be spent on helping them within schools, through mentoring and out-of-school programmes, to improve behaviour and educational attainment.