Research geared to reducing social inequalities


Description of impact

Prof Stefan Kühner is an internationally renowned scholar with a global mindset. His particular research interests are in comparative and global social policy, and the development of welfare policy in a historical perspective. His research work can be summarised as simply wanting “to contribute to a society in which nobody is left behind”.

What did The Fairness for Children report tell the world?
Prof Kühner’s research papers have appeared in authoritative publications. The Innocenti Report Card 13, Fairness for Children - A League Table of Inequality in Child Well-Being in Rich Countries, which he co-authored with John Hudson for UNICEF, was published in April 2016. It drew significant attention from the global press, including Forbes, New York Times, BBC, Der Spiegel in Germany, Japan Times, Pro Bono New Australia, New Zealand’s Stuff and Britain’s Independent newspaper, which all highlighted the report’s findings.

The report aims to monitor and compare the performance of economically advanced countries in securing the rights of children. Entailing a regular assessment of how rich countries fare in promoting children’s well-being, it presents a comparative overview of the inequalities found in this respect across European Union (EU) and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. In particular, the Innocenti Report Card 13 seeks to assess “child well-being gaps”, measuring the distance between the “average” child in each country and the most disadvantaged in terms of income, education, health, and self-reported satisfaction with life.

Overall, Denmark, Finland and Norway showed the smallest gaps in well-being between the most disadvantaged children and the “average’ child across these different areas of child wellbeing, while Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States only reached middling positions in the league table. The bottom three nations were Bulgaria, Turkey and Israel, with France, Belgium and Italy also showing relatively weak outcomes.

One key finding was an income gap in Japan of 60.2 per cent, meaning that children living in families at the bottom of the income distribution have less than half the disposable household income of the ‘average’ child. In South Korea the income gap was 45.7 per cent, more towards the top of the league table, and meaning that disadvantage children in Japan are further ‘left behind’ their peers than in South Korea.

The United Kingdom saw the biggest difference between the richest and poorest children regarding the consumption of healthy food such as fruit and vegetables. It also had one of the largest differences in levels of physical activity between children from high- and low-income backgrounds.

In all countries, children from a poorer family background were more likely to have low life satisfaction than those born to more affluent parents, though again there was a considerable variation across the countries.

What are the ways to reduce the “child well-being gaps”?
One suggestion to reduce the gaps in child well-being the report raised is to protect the incomes of households with the poorest children by boosting employment opportunities for their parents, and also by implementing more progressive taxation and effective service provision for families. The comparative evidence shows that governments have at their disposal policy measures to reduce child well-being gaps, however, in reality there is no guarantee that they are always willing and able to implement such policies.