Child Poverty in CroatiaCroatia is located in the southeast of Europe within the Balkan Peninsula and the U.S. recognized its independence in 1992. Child poverty in Croatia has been a significant issue in the country for quite some time and many families felt the negative impacts of the six-year recession that struck in 2008.

Socio-Political Background

The Croatian government worked with the EU, eventually becoming a member in 2013. Since then, the quality of life has shifted for Croatians altogether, and the country has worked hard to promote a way for everyone to grow and succeed equally. The EU has developed plans specifically for children and their caregivers in hopes that no child is denied any opportunities based on social and economic status. The government of Croatia is also prioritizing the alleviation of child poverty through various initiatives.

In 2010, the percentage of Croatians under 18 years old living below the poverty line had reached a record high, according to the World Bank. Since then, the country has put many efforts in place to reduce these numbers. In the years moving forward, Croatians experienced a steady decrease in the percentage of those living under the poverty line.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a slight increase in poverty levels, but the numbers have since reduced substantially. Not only has the country reduced all types of poverty, but the specific attention to children has helped give Croatian children and their families better opportunities. As of 2022, 18.4% of the population of Croatians under the age of 18 faced the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

The European Child Guarantee

Adopted in 2021, The European Child Guarantee aims to ensure every child in Europe has access to the same opportunities in life. It focuses on children who are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. This includes free education and health care as well as sufficient housing and healthy nutrition.

The Croatian government has explicitly been working toward decreasing the poverty rates among those under 18 years old. In the Croatian government’s plan, the aim is to address hidden costs within education and provide free meals at school. It is also a goal to provide health care services at home and housing allowances to foster-care families. The Croatian government also hopes to enhance the social mentoring system for caregivers in need. 

Croatia’s Child Guarantee National Action Plan is run by a committee assigned to ensure this plan is being properly implemented. The country encouraged children to participate in this planning process and share their opinions. The well-being of children has been a top priority within the government, which has been a huge factor in decreasing child poverty in Croatia. So far in four countries including Croatia, the program has reached more than 30,000 children and 16,000 caregivers.

EU Strategy on the Rights of a Child

In Europe, children’s rights have been a growing topic of discussion throughout the years. The EU Strategy on the Rights of a Child aims to ensure that children feel that they have rights within their country and don’t experience violence or exclusion. Like the European Child Guarantee, the plan included the input of more than 10,000 children.

Each year, Croatia holds an annual conference to track the successes of the rights of a child. In 2024, this strategy will be evaluated with the expectation that it has provided steady benefits and ensured that all children are being treated fairly, according to National Plan Overview.

Child Benefits

The economy in Croatia has seen its ups and downs during and after the pandemic. The country provided various stimulus packages over the past two years to alleviate pressures on families. It has also worked hard to help individuals obtain steady incomes. The government made loan programs more accessible to those in need and extended many loan repayment deadlines. Additionally, families can apply to receive a stipend for each child they are providing for. The amount awarded can continue every month until the child reaches adulthood.

Looking Ahead

Croatian authorities have made significant efforts to address poverty and prioritize the well-being of youth, particularly by targeting child poverty in Croatia. The implementation of the European Child Guarantee has played a crucial role in providing equal educational opportunities for all children, while also ensuring access to free education and healthcare. Child benefits have offered crucial support to parents in navigating the challenges of the post-pandemic economy. As a result of these government initiatives, child poverty rates in Croatia have shown a steady decline, and there is an expectation that this positive trend will continue in the future.

– Alesandra Cowardin
Photo: Wikimedia

child poverty in Trinidad and TobagoThe rate of child poverty in Trinidad and Tobago constitutes a staggering 50% of those living in poverty on the islands. This can negatively impact a variety of facets in a child’s life including their access to a quality education.

As children account for more than 200,000 of the country’s population, UNDP, UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) conducted research in 2017 to gauge the youth’s perception of and experience with poverty in order to better understand issues of poverty affecting children in Trinidad and Tobago.

Across varying regions of Trinidad and Tobago including Sangre Grande, Arima and Tunapuna, the study assessed children’s experiences through a multidimensional perspective of poverty — referring to aspects of living in poverty that extend beyond basic income such as the absence of familial support, poor health and a lack of educational access.

Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

With a multidimensional approach to measuring poverty, UNDP reported on Trinidad and Tobago’s 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The index is measured on a yearly basis according to a country’s deprivations across three dimensions: “health, education and standard of living.” The country’s MPI value amounted to 0.002, with deprivations in the standard of living, health and education contributing 20.5%, 45.5% and 34% respectively to this dimension in total.

In regard to deprivations in education, following the pandemic school dropouts increased with an estimated 151 primary school students and 2,663 secondary school students dropping out of government schools in Trinidad between the beginning of 2020 and the end of 2022. Some reasons for these dropout rates were attributed to loss of jobs, subsequent financial distress and the need for older children to aid their parents in caring for their younger siblings.

National Child Policy

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Social Development has made efforts to address the difficulties faced in education as a product of child poverty in Trinidad and Tobago.

In accordance with the 2020-2030 National Child Policy of Trinidad and Tobago which outlines the country’s commitment to ensuring positive outcomes for the nation’s children, the government has continuously set out to alleviate the financial inequities that can act as a barrier to children’s engagement in educational institutions.

To attenuate the financial burden of obtaining school meals for those facing experiencing child poverty in Trinidad and Tobago, the National Schools Dietary Services focuses on providing free breakfasts and lunches throughout primary and secondary schools. Between 2013 and 2014, children in need received 64,422 breakfasts and 96,448 lunches.

Moreover, in support of the program’s services to impoverished communities, the Draft Estimates of Expenditure for 2023 indicates that the National Schools Dietary Services has received a more significant budget allocation for the 2023 fiscal year – an additional $181.8 million in comparison with its 2022 budget of $88.9 million. This increased financial allocation enables the program to continue its standard operation of improving the nutritional status of children in order to enhance their learning ability through the daily provision of catering services to students across 800 schools in Trinidad and Tobago.

Children also are able to partake in a textbook rental and loan program, which has delivered more than 203,000 books and learning materials to students. Moreover, free school health program services including vision exams, hearing tests and psychosocial support are free to children up to 14 years old, according to the National Child Policy Green Paper.

Early Child Care Education (ECCE)

Similarly, through recognizing the foundational importance of Early Child Care Education (ECCE) the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has also invested in providing free ECCE centers. These centers promote the holistic transition of young children — ranging from the ages of 3 to 4 — into the education system, according to the National Child Policy Green Paper.

The accessibility of these ECCE centers sets out to bridge the gap in experience and resources experienced by children living in poverty through a curriculum that emphasizes skill building and development in the “physical, cognitive, linguistic and socioeconomic areas.”

According to the National Child Policy Green Paper. there are 151 fully operational Government and Government Assisted ECCE centers throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

Making Plans to Prioritize Children

Efforts from the government to combat child poverty in Trinidad and Tobago have also taken the shape of plans to prioritize children through a commitment to a National Implementation Plan with varying strategies to improve the welfare of children in need. These strategies range from ensuring the provision of quality physical and mental health services for children, increasing the accessibility of education and learning opportunities and an aim to create spaces safe for children’s recreation — each allotted a total budget of more than $3 million for its enactment, according to the National Child Policy Green Paper.

The initiatives adopted by the government to alleviate the educational barriers faced by children in poverty indicate a step toward achieving the first of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate poverty. As estimates indicate the cost of halving child poverty by 2030 can cost 0.3% of GDP. Continuously investing in advancing children’s education could contribute to improving Trinidad and Tobago’s social and economic development.

– Katrina Girod
Photo: Flickr