Overwhelming evidence attests to the importance of our well-being as children in shaping who we are and what we can become when we grow older. Child well-being leaves its impression on well-being at every point in life. It manifests itself in our health, our job opportunities, our family life and our relationships. Child well-being policies, from family supports and early childhood education and care and to housing, schooling, health services, and culture and leisure facilities can have important effects on children’s opportunities to flourish and grow. They can help level the playing field and ensure that all children – regardless of background and life circumstances – can develop to their full potential and enjoy the good things in life

Countries will confront difficult challenges as they begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of this global crisis, the OECD has stressed the need for countries to quickly take measures to minimise risks to children’s well-being and provide assistance and support to the most vulnerable. Looking forward, to set up our future generation of adults to prosper and flourish in the midst of the challenges that may lie ahead, promoting child well-being should sit at the heart of countries’ post COVID-19 recovery efforts.

This report builds on a long history of OECD work on child well-being. Important milestones include the publication of the 2009 flagship report Doing Better for Children, a dedicated chapter on child well-being in OECD How’s Life? 2015, the PISA 2015 and PISA 2018 reports on Students’ Well-Being, and the 2019 report Changing the Odds for Vulnerable Children: Building Opportunities and Resilience. In 2017, the Organisation established the OECD Child Well-being Data Portal – a hub for cross-national data on child well-being and the settings in which children grow up. Most recently, over the past few years, the OECD has established several new and important international surveys – including the OECD International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study and the OECD Study on Social and Emotional Skills – that seek to collect data on the well-being of children at various points in childhood.

This report goes one step further by pushing forward the child data agenda and laying the groundwork for better child data infrastructures. It develops a new conceptual framework for measuring child well-being, identifies key gaps in child data, and outlines priorities for child data development. The over-arching aim is not just to motivate improvements in child well-being data in and of itself, but also to build better and more useful data to inform the development of better child well-being policies. The report and its lessons form a key pillar of the OECD’s ongoing efforts to improve the availability of international child data, including the development of a key indicator dashboard to monitor child well-being, and to assist countries in measuring better what matters most in children’s lives.

This report was prepared by the OECD Centre on Well-Being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity (WISE Centre) with contributions from the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs (ELS). It was developed under the leadership of Romina Boarini (Director of OECD WISE Centre) and the supervision of Olivier Thévenon (Head of the Child Well-Being Unit, OECD WISE Centre), Willem Adema (Social Policy Division, ELS) and Monika Queisser (Head of Social Policy Division & Senior Counsellor, ELS) are kindly acknowledged for providing inputs and comments at the early stage of the process.

The report was written by Olivier Thévenon (lead author), Chris Clarke and Gráinne Dirwan (OECD WISE Centre), and Jonas Fluchtmann (OECD ELS). Anne-Lise Faron, OECD WISE Publications and Event Coordinator, prepared the manuscript for publication. Julia Carro, OECD WISE Centre, and Martine Zaïda, OECD WISE Communications, Partnership and Forum Manager, provided support and advice on communication aspects.

The report benefited from comments and feedback by Richie Poulton (Chief Science Advisor to the New Zealand Minister for Child Poverty Reduction), Nichola Shackleton and Debra Small (New Zealand Social Wellbeing Agency), Michele Cecchini, Emily Hewlett, Gaetan Lafortune and Michael Müller (Health Division, OECD ELS), Willem Adema (Social Policy Division, OECD ELS), Tracey Burns, Francesca Gottschalk, Rowena Phair and Mario Piacentini (OECD Directorate for Education and Skills), and Romina Boarini, Carrie Exton and Lara Fleischer (OECD WISE Centre). The authors are grateful to the members of the OECD Working Party on Social Policy for the many comments and suggestions made on an earlier version of the report.

The OECD gratefully acknowledges financial support provided by New Zealand for the preparation of this report.

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