Health, education, safety, and financial stability are, in our modern world, all elements that determine well-being and a balanced life - central to happiness and general peace of mind. It goes without saying that a major part of the inexorable responsibility of a nation is to secure the well-being of its children.
Children make up 27 percent of the earth’s total population. With the numerous horrors unleashed on our most defenseless of citizens, the question as to where in the world our children are best off is one of interest. The answer, of course, it useful to those hoping to start a family and considering relocating for the good of their kids.
Naturally, we think of rich countries where resources abound opportunities for children to learn, grow, and prosper. A study conducted by the UNICEF Office of Research determines which of the top 29 most developed countries rank highest for overall child well being. The study spans 5 dimensions used to determine the welfare of children: material well being, referring to monetary deprivation as determined by the country’s child poverty rate and poverty gap; health and safety; education; behaviors and risks, such as being overweight, bullying, and drug and alcohol use among children; and finally, housing and environment, which takes into account such things as the number of family members to one household and levels of air pollution in the child’s place of residence.
The study gives a powerful insight into the lives of children around the world. It bears mentioning, however, that a number of countries were excluded from the study due to unreliable data. Notable examples which were excluded are Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, Cyprus, Israel, Japan, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey. But perhaps the biggest eye-opener the research provides is proving that there exists little correlation between a country’s GDP per capita (except, of course, to the point where the country has a developed economy rather than a developing or undeveloped economy) and the level of child well-being. With some of the most affluent countries like the U.S ranking among the lowest of all 29 countries studied (26th place), the numbers show how a comparably impoverished country like Portugal (15th place), for example, ranks higher in overall child well being.
When comparing the child poverty rate in economically struggling developed countries like Italy and Spain to the relatively affluent U.S. we notice that all have a child poverty rate higher than 20 percent - indicating that a country’s economic prosperity does not necessarily secure the economic equality and well-being of its most vulnerable young citizens. The following list elucidates UNICEF’s findings and shows where in the world children are truly the best off.
With an overall average score of 2.4, the Netherlands is number one out of the 29 countries researched for the study for overall child well-being. It is the only country that ranked in the top 5 for all categories of all 5 dimensions. The country ranked number 1 for the material well-being of children, 5th for health and safety, first in academic achievement and participation levels, first in behaviors and risks to child welfare, and 4th in housing and environment. The GDP per capita in the Netherlands is $41, 400 and the child poverty rate is second to Finland at a little over 5 percent.
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