Action needed to decrease child poverty and youth mental health problems

World Children’s Day recommendations for the Netherlands

Cartoon van een kind die bij een kaart van Europa staat.

The Netherlands should take action to decrease child poverty and look into achieving more structural solutions and taking measures targeted at specific groups of vulnerable children. Such as children with a refugee status. This is one of the recommendations in the 2023 report ‘Children’s Rights: Political will or won’t? of the network organisation Eurochild that is being presented World Children’s Day to the European Parliament. Utrecht University’s Dynamic of Youth is a member of the Eurochild organisation and has contributed to the report with information and recommendations.

Child poverty in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a total child population of 3.30 million, of which 13.9% live at risk of poverty and social exclusion as of 2022. That is nearly 460,000 children in need. The groups of children most in need in the country are those with a migrant background, children from single families, children with a disability, children from an ethnic minority, and children living in specific areas of the country. An investment of 6 billion Euro is needed annually to counter poverty, but currently the government has pledged to invest only 2 billion Euro.

Children’s mental health

A small group of children is talking with each other.

The proportion of young people (12-15 years old) with mental health complaints, which was exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, has decreased only slightly since the end of the last lockdown. In June 2022, the Secretary of State launched an Action Plan to tackle mental health problems in five different domains: society in general, neighbourhoods, school, work and online. The action plan however has no clear objectives, terms and conditions and budget. Youth mental health care is struggling with the same issues since the 1980s, budget cuts, long waiting lists and low quality of care. The Dutch Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study revealed that the percentage of girls experiencing emotional problems has almost doubled between 2017 and 2021 and the situation did not improve in 2022.

The crisis in the Dutch asylum reception is hitting children the hardest, with harrowing living conditions in emergency shelters and problems with access to care and children who sometimes do not go to school for months.

The Netherlands dropped from its 4th place in the 2022 Kids Rights Index to the 20th place in the 2023 Kids Rights Index. There was in particular a decrease in the area of health and the largest decline in the area defined as ‘enabling environments for child rights’. The crisis in the Dutch asylum reception is hitting children the hardest, with harrowing living conditions in emergency shelters and problems with access to care and children who sometimes do not go to school for months.

Impact of climate change

Climate change and environmental impacts The Netherlands air pollution is negatively impacting on children’s health: one in five children suffer from asthma due to air pollution. Besides pollution, climate change increasingly impacts Dutch children, as the floods of July 2021 in the South of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany demonstrated. Children growing up in the province of Groningen suffer the consequences of earthquakes.

Recommendations by UU - Dynamics of Youth

Knuffelend groepje diverse kinderen.

In the Netherlands, youth wellbeing in the broader context is not systematically assessed and the measurements that exist are scattered. Utrecht University’s Better Well-Being Index is currently being explored as a structured way to measure the development, prosperity, and well-being of children and adolescents Extending this Index, which captures eleven dimensions of well-being, to children and adolescents would provide a more complete ‘picture’ of their well-being, material living conditions, and quality of life in the Netherlands. It would also provide a framework to measure and track youth well-being and prosperity at local and national level.

About Eurochild

Eurochild advocates for children’s rights and well-being to be at the heart of policymaking. It is a network of organisations working with and for children throughout Europe, striving for a society that respects the rights of children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the foundation of all our work. In the Netherlands UU Dynamics of Youth is one of the member organisations of Eurochild. 

More information
Read the full report