Ending Education and Child Poverty in Europe

Children across Europe tell us that what poverty means for them is going to school on an empty stomach, being stressed because parents can’t pay the rent, spending winter in cold homes and schools, not having enough money to buy a book and not daring to have hopes and dreams.

No European country is free from child poverty. More than 26 million children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion in EU member states, Iceland and Norway. Together these children would make the seventh most populous country in the European Union (EU).

“My father is unemployed, because the factory closed. My mother is at home but she is looking for a job, if my parents say ‘no’, I know it’s for a reason. My parents want us to be happy, if they say no it’s because they have no money. I understand.” Girl, Spain.

Children whose parents are from the most disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely not to achieve minimum competences in mathematics and reading. They are also deprived of basic educational opportunities, including not having a room where they can study, not going to the theatre, cinema or cultural events, or not being able to join a sport club. These children are being denied their rights and the opportunities to develop their potential. As they grow up, they will face greater challenges in becoming active members of society and finding stable, good-quality jobs. It’s a vicious cycle: material poverty leads to educational poverty and vice versa.

“Culture is important because it enables you to choose what to do in life and achieve it. It is the basis of everything. Music is important because it opens your mind. I liked it a lot when I went to a concert with my mum. I felt part of something important and magic.” Boy, Italy

This intergenerational transmission of disadvantage is unfair and costly for both individuals and society as a whole. In order to eradicate child poverty, social exclusion and educational poverty, European states and EU institutions should tackle inequality of opportunities in childhood by removing the barriers that prevent children developing skills and capabilities. 

Published 2016-12-05

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