Children's well-being in Europe and North America


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The UNICEF has surveyed the well-being of children in 21 industrialised countries.

VRT : Dutch kids better off than Belgians

VRT said:
The researchers used six criteria to define general well-being: education, material wealth, subjective welfare, relationships with family and friends, health and safety and behaviour.

Here is the full ranking :

1. The Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Irish Republic
10. Belgium
11. Germany
12. Canada
13. Greece
14. Poland
15. Czech Republic
16. France
17. Portugal
18. Austria
19. Hungary
20. United States of America
21. United Kingdom

Here is the full UNICEF report

I have made a map showing the average ranking.

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Yes, the UK is bottom of the league table. The BBC reported it on TV and on their website : BBc News : UK is accused of failing children

Appartently the reasons are that more children live in poverty in the UK and the US than anywhere else in the surveyed countries. British teenagers also drink and smoke more than European average, with fewer continuing into higher education, and Britain has a notoriously high teenage pregnancy rate.

BBC said:
One of the report's authors told the BBC that under-investment and a "dog-eat-dog" society were to blame for Britain's poor performance.
"Unicef's report is a wake-up call to the fact that, despite being a rich country, the UK is failing children and young people in a number of crucial ways."

The Children's Commissioner for England, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, said: "We are turning out a generation of young people who are unhappy, unhealthy, engaging in risky behaviour, who have poor relationships with their family and their peers, who have low expectations and don't feel safe."

Let's note that the Netherlands, on top of the list, is reputedly the most socially liberal country in the developed world. It seems that legal cannabis, the comparatvely low age to drink alcohol (16 years old), and the conspicuous sex industry are not causing any damages to children's well-being, on the contrary !
Not surprising that the US is down there. Kind of surprised that the UK is though. American students do poorly in school because teachers are not invested in students anymore and don't expect much from them it's really not that American kids are dumb. So that's one way the US is failing children.

Anywho, just like the UK the US has a high teen pregnancy rate, but I don't understand why the teen pregnancy rate is so high in the UK, I mean don't they teach sex education in the UK? :?
The UNICEF report is divided in 6 dimensions, and each of the 21 countries is ranked from 1 to 21 for each of them. Here is the top 3 for each dimension :

Material well-being

(relative income poverty, households without jobs, reported deprivation)

1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Finland

Health and safety

(infant death rate or poor health, vaccinations, child deaths from accidents and injuries)

1. Sweden
2. Netherlands
3. Finland

Educational well-being

(school achievement in reading, maths and sciences at age 15; percentage aged 15-19 in education, training or employment)

1. Belgium
2. Canada
3. Poland

Family and peer relationships

(children living in single-parent families, time spent with parents, children who report finding their peers kind and helpful)

1. Italy
2. Portugal
3. Netherlands

Behaviours and risks

(percentage of children who eat breakfast, eat fruits, do exercise, are overweight, get involved in fights, report being bullied; percentage of 15 years old who smoke, get drunk, have sex, use condoms, etc.)

1. Sweden
2. Poland
3. Netherlands

Subjective well-being

(percentage of young people rating their own health no more than fair, or poor, liking school a lot, results of Life Satisfaction Scale)

1. Netherlands
2. Spain
3. Greece

What about Japan ?

Japan was not ranked in the final report, but data is available for most dimensions. It ranks surprisingly low in material affluence. It is last for child material deprivation, one to last for the percentage of children age 15 reporting less than six educational possessions*, and 18th out of 24 OECD nations for the percentage of children age 15 reporting less than 10 books in the home.

For health and safety, Japan has a slightly below average ranking, It has the lowest infant mortality, but the highest "low birth weight rate". The vaccination rate is average.

Data is partly missing for education and family, but Japan ranks slightly above average for the available data.

No data is available at all for behaviours and risks. It is likely that Japan performs well for eating breakfast, not being overweight and not drinking or smoking too much, but poorly for eating fruits, doing exercise, having sex without condom or being bullied.

For subjective well-being, the only data about Japan ranks it last (30% of children report loneliness ! about 5x above average).

* family car, family computer, own bedroom, family holidays
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Here are a few other interesting findings from the report.

- Hungarian people have the highest rate of children immunization (99% for the 3 categories surveyed)

- Iceland has the lowest infant mortality and the lowest rate of underweight babies at birth. However it has the highest percentage of children who feel 'like an outsider or left out of things' and feel lonely in the Western world (Japan has 3x more lonely children though)

- Finland has the highest educational achievements in all subjects surveyed (reading, maths, sciences), but the lowest percentage of children who like school (only 8%). It is Israel that scores the lowest on all the line, followed by Greece. Do colder climates stimulate intellectual faculties ?

- Belgium has the highest percentage of 15-19 years old in education, but also the highest rate of young people who feel awkward and out of place (after Japan). On the contrary, Israel has the lowest figures for 15-19 years old in education and the lowest rate of young people who feel awkward and out of place. A sign that school make people awkward ?

- Norway has the lowest number of children reporting low family affluence, and the lowest number of 15-19 years old not in education or employment.

- Sweden has the lowest percentage of bullied children, and the fewest young people who feel 'awkward and out of place'.

- Portugal and Switzerland have the highest percentage of children who find their peer 'friendly and helpful', but strangely also the highest percentage of bullying.

- Italians have the lowest rate of children living in single-parent families and the highest percentage of parents eating their meals with their kids.

- The UK has the highest percentage of young people who rate their health as poor or fair. Maybe that is because Britain also has the highest percentage of people who get drunk two or more times a week (30.8% between 11 and 15 years old !). The Brits may havethe highest percentage of people who have had sex at 15 years old (38% !), but this correlates in the highest percentage of teenage pregnancies in Europe. Let's add to the list of woes the highest percentage of child poverty after the USA, and the lowest percentage of teens who find their peer 'friendly and helpful'.

- The USA have one of the lowest percentage of teens eating breakfast, and yet have by far the highest number of overweight teens (25% of those between 11 and 15) and by far the highest teen pregancy rate (46 per 1000, almost twice as much as the UK in 2nd position). Maybe that is because so many teen girls are pregnant that they are statistically considered overweight. ;)

The USA also has the highest percentage of children living in single-parent or step family structures. On a brighter note, the US has the lowest percentage of 15 years old aspiring to low skilled work.
I was carrying out the survey about Italy, since it's my native country and found the statement that the Italian family is synonymous with Italian society and that social policy is family policy in Italy. And three main features about Italian society i'd like to share: Caring for Dependent Elderly (over 48% of Italians replied that this responsibility was the children’s duty, as compared with the European average of 37%). Young People are More Dependent on their Parents (compared to 75% of young Danes who had left their families of origin between the ages of 21 and 25, only 7% of their Italian contemporaries had taken this step)Family Poverty (12.3% in 2000). Child poverty rates are the highest among the 25 countries included in the UNICEF (2005) report, lower only than the USA and Mexico.

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