The incidence of child abuse in Taiwan is closely linked to parents’ unemployment, so recent job losses and furloughs due to the COVID-19 crisis are cause for concern, a physician from Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou said on Tuesday, citing one of the hospital’s studies.
The correlation between unemployment and child abuse became evident in the US during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, when the number of children hospitalized with brain damage nearly doubled from previous years, said Hsin Yi-chen (辛宜臻), an attending physician in the pediatric department.
It was later discovered that the spike in child abuse during that period was closely related to the high unemployment rate at the time, Hsin said.
In 2018, a team at the hospital conducted a similar study, using unemployment data from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics from 2004 to 2015, and a correlation between the two factors was also found, she said.
Over that period, the study found that there were a total of 161,183 abused or mistreated children, or an average of 36 victims per day, Hsin said.
The study also found an increase in the average daily incidence of child abuse, from 14 per 10,000 children in 2004 to 23.4 per 10,000 in 2015, peaking at 43 per 10,000 children in 2012, Hsin said.
In areas of the nation where the unemployment rate was higher, the incidence of child abuse was also higher, the study found.
There was also a delayed effect in the correlation between parental employment and child abuse, which meant that the latter could rise a year after an increase in the former, the study showed, she said.
It estimated that for every 1 percentage point rise in the unemployment rate, the incidence of child abuse increased by seven per 10,000 children in the following year, she said.
The delay could be related to the fact that people in Taiwan usually receive government unemployment benefits for six to nine months after they lose their jobs, so the stress of unemployment might not hit until months later, she said.
Ministry of Labor statistics showed that about 30,000 people were on unpaid leave as of the end of June due to the COVID-19 crisis, Hsin said.
This means that the incidence of child abuse might increase in the coming months, so the government and private sector need to allocate more resources to preventing such a problem among high-risk families, she said.
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