The Burden and Costs of Violence Against Children in the East Asia and Pacific Region

Friday, February 12, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Harding (Marriott Wardman Park)
Deborah Fry, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
This study estimated the health and economic impact of violence against children in the Asia-Pacific region. Violence against children is a critical issue for human capital and economic development. It impacts on children’s schooling, their mental and physical health and their work performance as adults. It contributes to the burden on hospitals and other already stretched services. Estimating the economic burden is important to increase awareness of the severity of child maltreatment, to assist policy makers and government officials in prioritizing funding and developing preventive programs, and to place the problem in the context of other public health, welfare and justice concerns. Until now, the costs of violence against children had only been calculated for a handful of countries, but were not available at the regional level.

Taking research from 32 countries in the region on the prevalence of maltreatment and the impact on health and well-being consequences, we translated this into dollar terms in order to assess the economic impact of violence against children. The study found that child maltreatment is costing countries in East Asia and the Pacific US $150 billion per year (in constant 2000 US $), equivalent to nearly 2 percent of the region’s GDP. This includes emotional abuse ($48.5 bn), physical abuse ($20.7 bn) sexual abuse ($42.9 bn) neglect ($17.1 bn), witnessing domestic violence ($21.1 bn) and death from maltreatment ($0.3 bn). Updated to 2012 dollars, the total cost of violence against children is $194 billion. In addition to the moral case for action, this research shows that there is also an impact on health and human capital, and an economic cost.

All governments in the East Asia and Pacific region have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which commits them to protect children from violence, abuse and maltreatment. This includes binding commitments to put in place measures to protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse". Governments are also working towards violence reduction targets through the Sustainable Development Goals. More needs to be done to meet these commitments, including greater investment in social services. Most governments in the region do not significantly invest in measures to prevent violence. The economic burden of violence against children in East Asia and the Pacific is substantial, and effects – directly or indirectly – everyone in the region.