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Report prompts child poverty debate in Sweden

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16:15 CET+01:00
The Swedish children's rights organization Bris has abandoned its use of the term “child poverty” after an investigative news report sparked scathing and celebratory feedback in the ensuing debate.

In the summer of 2011, another children's organization, Save the Children Sweden, released a report that stated that 220,000 children in Sweden lived below the poverty line.

As it was published in time for the political conference Almedalen, the report got a lot of attention in the meda. It even made its way into the keynote speech by then Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt.

“This is crazy,” the voiceover on the accompanying Save the Children video says.

“Imagine not being able to eat until you're full or walking around in summer shoes during the winter,” the voiceover on the report's accompanying video said.

Later on, the term “child poverty” would make its way into several motions put to parliament, the investigative team behind the Sveriges Television (SVT) investigative news show Uppdrag Granskning noted in a report broadcast on Wednesday this week.

Their review showed that many Swedes who work with children thought the term was misleading and questioned what should be considered "poverty" in a relatively wealthy nation like Sweden.

Dallas Diabaté has worked with children and teenagers for 30 years in Malmö's Rosengård neighbourhood, which is classified as one of Sweden's poorest areas. He told Uppdrag Granskning that he had never met a child in Sweden who wasn't getting enough food.

“On the other hand, there are parents who can't afford to buy their child an iPhone or a computer and that child is considered poor by Swedish standards,” Diabaté said.

Many viewers reacted angrily to the show, however, saying it neglected to mention children in Sweden who really do struggle because their parents or parent have limited income or receive benefits.

The show's producers and hosts responded that their aim was to look at misleading terminology used by NGOs and charities.

Uppdrag Granskning host Janne Josefsson explained the programme wanted to examine how three NGOs interpreted figures in a way that served their needs.

"Their descriptions are that a quarter of a million children don't have winter clothes, don't get food, and that's an exaggeration," he told Sveriges Radio (SR).

"We examined the three organizations and they aren't used to that and I think we were right to do it asking relevant questions. If they had good answers, then there is no problem. But they didn't."

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The organization Bris, which also started using the term in 2011, has now decided to abandon the term “child poverty” for Swedish children and replace it with "social and economic vulnerability".

Also Save the Children, who first launched the term in 2011, has admitted that it gave a misleading portrayal of the situation and has since abandoned the campaign.

TT/The Local/at

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