Cuts in benefits have increased the number of poor children
Benefits for families with dependent children do not comply with the wage development. This has resulted in an increasing number of poor families with dependent children during the last 10 years.
This statement belongs to Knut Halvorsen, professor and researcher at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Science (HiOA).
– In the 1990s, child poverty in Norway decreased due to politicians increasing a range of benefit schemes directed towards families with dependent children. In the 2000s the authorities turned. The benefits were reduced and since then, child poverty has increased, says Halvorsen.
Halvorsen has, together with a research group at HiOA, written a report in Norwegian called «Child Poverty in a Wealthy Country. Adding up Knowledge on Poverty and Exclusion among Children in Norway».
Despite political goals of eradicating poverty, the number of poor children has increased in the decade from 1999 to 2009. According to the latest numbers from Statistics Norway, about 74 000 Norwegian children grow up in families with prolonged low income.
Lack ofbenefits increases
The Professor believes that an increased child benefit and a raise of the dependent child allowances of the social security scheme are among the measures that may improve the situation for poor children.
The child benefit has not been raised or cost adjusted since 1996. During these years there has been a high increase in incomes. The dependent child allowances of the social security scheme have stagnated. In 2001 the sibling allowance of the child benefit and the tax credit for dependent children were removed. Later, the infant allowance was abolished.
Surveys show that if families with children in the middle of the 2000s had received the same amount of child benefit that they did ten years earlier, there would have been 10 000 fewer poor children in Norway today.
Not able to follow
There has not been an increase in social welfare that will secure families with children a solid economy in cases where the parents do not have any income-producing employment.
– Poverty increases when people with the lowest incomes are not able to follow and it is the children of these families that will be affected, says Halvorsen.
The report is written on commission from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service. The emphasis is on making proposals for research and relevant measures to counteract poverty and exclusion among children and young people. Examples of suggested measures are: free core time in nursery school, free school activities and after-school activities.
Great differences in dependent child allowances
The research group, which among others consists of Research Assistant Hege Larsen and Project Manager and Associate Professor Sissel Seim at “Sosialforsk”, is critical to the variation of dependent child allowances between 4420 NOK for unemployed and 31 686 NOK per year for parents who are recipients of disability benefits.
–We have not found an explanation for the differences in the dependent child allowances. There is no logic behind the numbers, says Sissel Seim, researcher at HiOA.
The project group recommends that a plan of action is made, consisting of an evaluation of the social welfare scheme and where children and young people are included in the development of research and measures.
Assessing the proposals
The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service will present some of the proposals to the Ministry of Labour in a report on poverty and they will go through the different proposals for eradicating poverty.
The report is carried out by «Sosialforsk», which is organised under Department of Social Work, Child Welfare and Social Policy at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service has initiated and financed the project.
The project group has consisted of Associate Professor Sissel Seim (Project Manager), Research Assistant Hege Larsen, Professor Knut Halvorsen, Researcher Thomas Lorentzen, Professor Mons Oppedal, Head of Department Mona Sandbæk at Department of Social Work, Child Welfare and Social Policy, Associate Professor Oddbjørg Skjær Ulvik and Head Librarian Solveig Hjelde.
At risk of poverty
The report displays five groups of children with great risks of growing up in families with prolonged poverty:
- Children of families where both parents are unemployed and where the family depends on social benefits or social security benefits e.g. due to unemployment or health issues.
- Children of families with many children.
- Children of single parents.
- Children of families with immigrant origin, especially non-western origin.
- Young people of 18 years old going through the transition from adolescence to adulthood.