About 15% of Belgian children aged 1 to 15 years live in situations of deprivation, and while the rate is similar to France’s, it is higher than that of all other neighbouring countries, according to a new study released on Thursday. The deprivation translates into a lack of essentials such as participating in leisure activities, living in properly heated accommodation or eating protein every day, the researchers notes the study, ‘La pauvreté et la déprivation des enfants en Belgique’ (Child Poverty and Deprivation in Belgium), coordinated and released on Thursday by the Fondation Roi Baudouin. The gap between Belgium and its neighbours is even wider if more severe situations of deprivation are compared, it found.
“This observation is very paradoxical because if you look at the general level of wealth in Belgium, we are not less endowed than our neighbours,” co-author Frank Vandenbroucke, a professor at the Amsterdam University, said on Thursday.
“We have a higher proportion of needy children,” added the former socialist minister in the Federal and Flemish governments, who co-authored the wide-ranging study with Anne-Catherine Guio of the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research.
In their study, the two researchers developed indicators of child deprivation for the first time for Belgium and its regions and compared their results with those of the rest of Europe.
Contrary to simple monetary measurements based on household incomes, the study looked at the concrete difficulties experienced by children in their everyday lives: do they have the possibility of eating fresh fruits and vegetables each day? Do they have games, books, clothes and many pairs of shoes of their size? Can they invite their friends home from time to time or go on school excursions?
These are among 17 seemingly simple or ordinary things included on the researchers’ list of possible deprivations. When, based on a survey, it is noted that a child lacks at least three of these items, that child is considered needy.