chapter  8
21 Pages

A method for assessing the adequacy of Australian children’s living standards


Introduction It seems that everybody wants children to achieve to their full potential. Speeches by politicians, and policy statements by governments, are liberally sprinkled with aspirations that children achieve their full potential. Yet the meaning of ‘full potential’, and how we know when it has been achieved, are seldom, if ever clarified. My aim in this chapter is to offer a way forward in terms of defining, not the content of full potential – it is a matter of social choice whether society values and rewards just economic productivity or a broader range of flowering – but what can be done towards measuring its achievement. In summary, the argument I propose here relates to inequality in developmental achievement among children, and how living standards determine this inequality in achievement. I argue that it is, in essence, a problem of human rights. Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to ‘a standard of living adequate for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development’, while Article 29 states that children have the right to education for the development of their personality ‘to their fullest potential’. I interpret these two articles as meaning that the material and non-material resources that constitute the child’s standard of living should be sufficient to ensure outcomes for all children on a par with those that the most privileged children in society can achieve. Interpreted in this way, the achievement of all children’s development with respect to certain desirable (and necessary) functionings to their fullest potential becomes a feasible, if nonetheless difficult, goal for society.