ENHANCING CHILD WELL-BEING benefits society as a whole and is key to fostering prosperity. However, improving policies to help children thrive will require better data on their needs and lived experiences, according to a new OECD report.

Measuring What Matters for Child Well-being and Policies develops a new child well-being measurement framework, identifies key gaps in child data, and outlines how they can be filled.

Based on a review of research evidence on child well-being and how it relates to later life outcomes, the framework follows a number of principles; that well-being is multidimensional, is tightly embedded in a child’s environment, and that fundamental aspects change according to age. Well-being measures must also take into account children’s views and perspectives.

A multidimensional approach is central because difficulties or strengths in different areas interact. The report cites, for example, how emotional regulation in early childhood has a positive impact on learning and on the quality of friendships and social skills, as children grow older.

The framework treats the different dimensions of child well-being – material, social, emotional, cultural and educational well-being, as well as physical health and cognitive development – as interconnected. It also aims to capture the distribution of well-being through measures that reflect lack of opportunities and disparities across different groups of children, for instance by sex, by living arrangement, and by migrant background.

The report identifies a number of key priorities for measuring child well-being, including:

  • Do children have the things they need?
  • Are children active and physically healthy?
  • Do children feel safe and secure, respected, included and happy?
  • Are children learning and achieving in education?

The report says that although comparable international data has improved, it remains limited in scope. Some children, often the most vulnerable, are frequently missing or not easily identifiable in existing data, while information is limited on the well-being of the very young and on children’s own views on important aspects of their lives.

Co-ordinated action from governments, international organisations, and the wider community to improve the availability of cross-national child data, is needed. This is a sizable task, it says. It will require both significant investment and a medium- to long-term commitment.

The report has been prepared by the new OECD Centre on Well-being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity (WISE). The Centre is generating new data and solutions to improve people’s well-being and reduce inequalities, and to understand better the impact of policies and business actions on people’s lives.

Commenting on the report, Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “The OECD’s appeal for better data on children’s well-being is something we have long been calling for in our case for a national measurement of children’s well-being.

“The problem is the government doesn’t currently measure children’s well-being nationally, but if it did, we could better understand all the facets of children’s lives, how they are interconnected and the impact all this can have. We also know there are currently significant gaps in data, specifically in relation to vulnerable and marginalised groups of children.

“Children’s well-being matters. We need to listen to and take young people’s views and perspectives into account, as they have the right to a good childhood, and for it to give them the tools to grow and transition into a good adulthood.

“It’s vital that policy makers invest in understanding children’s well-being nationally so we can put policies in place to improve children’s lives.”

* The report is available in various formats here.

* Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development