The future is already here
The condition of minors in post-Covid, between inequalities and an increase in poverty.
November 20 marks the 32nd anniversary of the Convention on the rights of childhood and adolescence approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 20, 1989, and ratified by Italy on May 27, 1991 with law no. 176. The Convention has an impact on the collective conscience, accentuating the sensitivity towards the minor, recognizing the fundamental rights of the human being and particular protection.
It is also thanks to the Convention that today we speak of the "promotion" of the rights of minors and we are able to place minors at the center of political thought and society.
Italy is not a "country for children"
The alarm was raised by Save the Children, which with the 12th edition of the Atlas of Childhood at Risk in Italy, traces an overview of the condition of minors in 2021, taking into account the impact of COVID-19 and highlighting the challenges more urgent to face for a future without more inequalities.
The picture that emerges from the report tells of a reality profoundly marked by educational, social, economic and geographical inequalities, which even following the pandemic appear increasingly marked, and where development opportunities vary greatly depending on the place where you grow up.
In particular, the photograph taken from the Atlas is that of an Italy that is aging rapidly, hit by a sharp decline in the birth rate and in which the number of minors in poverty continues to expand dramatically.
According to the data contained in the report, in our country, in the last 15 years, the population of under 18 has decreased by about 600 thousand minors and in the same period of time absolute poverty has increased considerably, reaching the share of one million children and young people in more who find themselves in conditions of absolute misery, without what is strictly necessary to live in dignity.
Thus, in the last 15 years absolute poverty has seen a continuous increase: a slight improvement was recorded only in 2019, thanks to the entry into force of the citizen's income, but in 2020, with the crisis triggered by the pandemic, absolute poverty it started growing again, reaching its highest value since 2005.
Precisely, in the year of the pandemic, minors in absolute poverty reached the record figure of 1 million and 336 thousand (with an incidence equal to 13.5%), well 200 thousand more than the previous year: this is a a real emergency, with one in 7 minors who do not have access to essential goods and services in our country.
Educational poverty and inequalities
The consequences, as the data reveal, are unfortunately dramatic: just think of the share of Early leavers from education and training - that is, of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 - which reached 13.1% (against a European average of 9.9%) or the NEET rate - young people between 15 and 29 who do not work, do not study and are not included in any training course - which reached 23.3%, which is the highest in Europe (compared to a European average of 13.7%). Data that continue to penalize Italy heavily, placing it in a rearguard position with respect to the European average.
Furthermore, the Atlas shows that inequalities and educational poverty affect the lives of minors from very early childhood: in Italy only 14.7% of children in the 0-2 year range - that is 1 in 7 - use kindergartens. crèche or supplementary services for children financed by the municipalities. A figure that is still too small, behind which there are huge gaps in the territorial offer: for example, if in Calabria only 3.1% of children have access to the nursery and in Campania 4%, in the province of Trento this same opportunity is offered to 30.4% of children and in Emilia Romagna to 28.7%.
However, inequalities continue to persist even with increasing age.
In Italy, in public primary school, 73.7% of students do not attend full-time school, thus accumulating at the end of this specific cycle of education, one year less school than those who benefit from full-time. However, it is not just a question of quantity. Spending a good part of the day in a positive and quality school environment, where being able to do workshops or sports activities represents, in fact, the best way to fight educational poverty and help children to develop their potential.
Furthermore, the INVALSI data showed that if the crisis hit and severely tested all students, the most serious consequences were mainly children and young people who already lived in a disadvantaged condition, who experienced more difficulties in following distance learning due to the lack of tools, suitable conditions and support at home. To confirm this, the average scores of the tests in Italian and mathematics revealed much worse results for children from families of low or medium-low socio-economic level.
The PNRR: turning point for reversing the course
The document, combined with the new programming of European funds and the Child Guarantee, provides for an overall investment in children that is unprecedented since the postwar period. But if the use of these resources is aimed at strengthening only the most equipped territories and everything will be decided from above, without the involvement of the local communities and the boys and girls themselves, the real risk is to improve the national indicators without however reduce - indeed aggravate - inequalities. It is a real risk, if we consider the first calls for nursery schools that have cut out many more deprived territories.
The PNRR must and can represent a new direction of travel for the country but it is necessary that the rights of all children - without exception - be put at the forefront of policies.
Prof. Andrea Farina
Faculty of Education