After the USA, Britain is the most unequal of the rich countries and this affects our children. In Britain 22% of children are poor, defined as living below 60% of the typical income. This compares to 8% in Sweden and 10% in Denmark. Thirty years ago in Britain the figure was only 13%.

Teenage boy

Poverty in childhood is one of the five most powerful and consistent predictors of subsequent disadvantage in later life.

Many people argue that a society with smaller differentials between rich and poor have less poverty but this would have to be at the cost of lower average incomes. We have two comments on this view.

First the premise is not necessarily true. If we reduce child poverty, this may not in fact reduce average income. It may empower more youngsters, so that they become more productive. Moreover they may behave less competitively at work and be more cooperative. This too may raise national output.

But, second, suppose the premise is true, and national income is somewhat lower as a result. Is that a disaster? Would it mean that we could no longer compete in the international market place and would therefore lose jobs? Not at all – we should always be able to compete provided our wage levels stayed in line with productivity.

It is often said that policies to equalise income do so at the cost of social mobility – preventing the poor from rising. Nothing could be further from the truth. Countries with high inequality and high child poverty, like Britain, also have low social mobility.

The present Government has made the impact of taxes, tax credits and benefits substantially more redistributive. But to hit the child poverty target, more money must be redistributed from the rich to the poor.

At present an unchanged fiscal policy would automatically lead to an annual increase in child poverty because most benefits and tax credits relevant to children are indexed to prices rather than earnings – driving more of those who depend on them towards relative poverty. Benefits and tax credits should be indexed to earnings.

Children's evidence

I think poverty is one of the main problems because it effects many children around the world, even in England where children and young people need our help.
- 11-year-old girl

I would help the poor people by giving them food and getting jobs for them

Read The Children's Society's view on inequalities.