The kids are alright (in Scandinavia)

Some factiods on the well-being of children from a recent UNICEF report (hat tip here). The Nordics are generally at the top of the list; Canada is number 12; the US and UK round out the bottom of the 21 countries on the list. Way to go, Scandinavia – with your high taxes, generous social programs and competitive economies – for making us look so bad.

The UK and US have come bottom of a Unicef report on children well-being across 21 industrialised countries, while the Netherlands came top in its league table, followed by Sweden, Denmark an Finland. Unicef looked at 40 indicators from the years 2000-2003 including poverty, family relationships, education and health. The report shows no strong link between child well-being and per capita GDP.


* European countries dominate the top half of the overall league table, with the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland claiming the top four places.

* The UK and United States are in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six categories covered. The six categories are material well-being, family and peer relationships, health and safety, behaviour and risks, and children’s own sense of well-being (educational and subjective).

* No country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions of child well-being, although the Netherlands and Sweden come close to achieving this.


* Child poverty remains above the 15% mark in the three southern European countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy) and in three Anglophone countries (the US, the UK, and Ireland).

* There is no obvious relationship between levels of child well-being and GDP per capita. The Czech Republic, for example, achieves a higher overall rank for child well-being than several much wealthier countries.

* A total of nine countries – all in northern Europe – have brought child poverty rates below 10%.


* Approximately 80% of children in the countries under review are living with both parents. This ranges from more than 90% in Greece and Italy to less than 70% in the UK and 60% in the US.

* Even in the lowest ranked countries, almost two-thirds of children still regularly eat the main meal of the day with their families, with France and Italy maintaining the tradition most of all.


* Fewer than one in every 10,000 young people die before the age of 19 as a result of accident, murder, suicide or violence.

* European countries occupy the top half of the report’s child health and safety table, with the top five places claimed by the four Nordic countries and the Netherlands.

* Infant mortality rates range from under 3% per 1,000 births in Iceland and Japan, to over 6% per 1,000 in Hungary, Poland and the US.


* The overall OECD league table of young people’s risk behaviours sees the UK at the foot of the rankings by “a considerable distance”.

* Risk behaviours considered in the study include smoking, being drunk, using cannabis, fighting and bullying, and sexual behaviour.

* Only about a third of young people eat fruit daily.

* Only about a third of young people exercise for an hour or more on five or more days a week – youths take most exercise in Ireland, Canada and the US, and the least in Belgium and France.


* Finland, Canada, Australia, and Japan head this particular table in the report.

* The UK is rated in the bottom third of the table for educational well-being.

* Four southern European countries – Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal – occupy the bottom four places.


* Children’s subjective sense of well-being appears to be markedly higher in the Netherlands, Spain, and Greece and markedly lower in Poland and the UK.

* Approximately 80% of young people consider their health to be good or excellent in every OECD country except the UK.

* The Netherlands, Norway and Austria, are at the head of the table with over a third of their schoolchildren admitting to “liking school a lot”.

{Unicef report in full (pdf)}


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

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