High rates of poverty in UK compared with other rich nations

03 July 2017

The UK has some of the worst rates of hunger and deprivation to be seen among high-income nations, a United Nations assessment has found.


Unicef investigated child health and wellbeing in 41 of the world’s richest countries, using 25 indicators, such as housing and food poverty.

Nearly one in five UK children under the age of 15 suffers from food insecurity – the lack of secure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. The average across the study was 13% – with food insecurity affecting just 1% of children in Japan and 35% in Mexico.

And one in three UK children were in ‘multidimensional poverty’, says Unicef – that is, in a state of deprivation linked to children’s rights across areas such as housing, clothing, nutrition and access to social and leisure activities.

The study also found the gap between rich and poor was widening in most nations, with many performing badly in key areas such as rising childhood obesity rates. Progress was noted, however, in declining neonatal deaths, adolescent suicides, teenage births and child homicide rates.

Sarah Cook, director of Unicef Innocenti, which carried out the assessment, said: ‘Governments in all countries need to take action.’

The UK ranks 16th out of 41 on tackling poverty, 34th on food insecurity, 15th on health and wellbeing, 31st on economic growth, and sixth on reducing inequalities.

Image credit: istock