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Friday, 15 March 2013

The Wellbeing of Young Australians

The second Report Card: The Wellbeing of Young Australians, reveals Australia is performing poorly against several important indicators. It highlights that in spite of much rhetoric about the wellbeing of our kids, in too many areas, we have not budged in 5 years. Produced by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), the Report Card brings together the most reliable measurements available on 46 indicators, and compares tangible measures of child and youth wellbeing with the average of countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Key findings:

* Australia is "middle of the road" - ranked in the top third of OECD countries for only 12 out of 46 indicators.
* Australia is ranked relatively poorly when it comes to preventing childhood deaths from injuries - 22nd out of 34 OECD countries.
* Australia ranks 22nd on infant mortality and 29th for rates of some infant vaccinations to prevent disease.
* Teenage pregnancy rates are higher than the OECD average, with Australia ranked 22nd out of 34 OECD countries.
* Nearly 30% of young people aged 15-24 years are overweight or obese and more than half (57%) lead sedentary lifestyles.
* Most children do not eat the recommended levels of fruit and vegetables.
* Australia fares well when compared to other OECD nations on rates of youth smoking (7% smoke daily) but less favourably for use of illicit drugs (18% using illicit drugs).
* Rates of youth suicide are declining but we are still ranked only 20th of 33 OECD countries. More than one in 10 young people suffer high levels of psychological distress.
* Indigenous rates of psychological distress and suicide are close to 3 times the national average.
* School achievement is relatively positive for 15 year olds but below average for primary school reading, maths and science.
* Youth unemployment is increasing despite our strong economy. 1 in 6 young people are not in education or in employment.
* The gap between rich and poor is increasing as is the percentage of young children living in jobless families. Over 1 in 6 children lived at or below the poverty line in 2010.

According to leading authority on early childhood, June McLoughlin, the Report Card reinforces ARACY's position that policies aimed at young people need to be evidence-based, and more support for the early years is required. "It is incomprehensible we are in the bottom third for income inequality - which in the past the World Bank and the World Health Organisation have calculated as a key predictor of life expectancy; and that with preschool age children having access to early learning, we are 30th out of 34 OECD nations." "This is one of the key gaps revealed by the Report Card - we under-invest in the early years, which are proven to be critical in maximising the potential of our children and making them ready for school. There is abundant evidence that proven early learning programs track through to better school performance later on."

Links page for report and technical report

Unattractive side to new portrait of young people (Sydney Morning Herald)

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