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.
In UNICEF’s study, Ireland ranked an average of 11.6 in overall child well-being considering all categories. Ireland took 17th place for the material well-being of children, 15th place for their general health and safety, 17th place for class participation and achievement; 7th place for behaviors and risks, and 2nd place for housing and environment. The GDP per capita in Ireland is $41,300 and the child poverty rate is under 10 percent.
Belgium ranked at an average of 11.2 for overall child well being. The country made it to 13th place out of 29 countries studied for material well-being and health and safety, second place for the level of educational achievement, and 14th place for behaviors and risks as well as housing and environment. Belgium’s GDP per capita is $37, 800 and the child poverty gap is a little over 20 percent.
Switzerland ranked a total of 9.6 in overall child well-being. The country made it to 9th place for the material well-being of children, 11th place for their overall health and safety; 16th place for the level of educational achievement, 11th place for behaviors and risks, and first place for the quality of housing and environment. The GDP per capita in Switzerland is $46,000 and the child poverty rate is under 10 percent.
Luxembourg ranked at an average of 9.2 for the overall child well-being in the country. It takes 6th place for the material well-being of its children, 4th place for health and safety, a low 22nd place for the level of children's educational participation and achievement; 9th place for the level of behaviors and risks of children, and 5th place for the quality for children’s housing and environment.
Germany came in at 9 for the overall well-being of children in the country. It ranked 11th place for the material well-being of children, 12th place for their health and safety, and 3rd place for the level of German children’s educational achievement. Germany also ranked 6th place for the behaviors and risks to a child’s well-being and 13th place for the quality of their housing and environment. Germany’s GDP per capita is $39,500 and the country has a child poverty rate of under 10 percent.
Ranking an average of 6.2 in overall child well-being, Sweden took 5th place for the material well-being of its children. It made 2nd place for the quality of child health and safety, 11th place for academic achievement, 5th place for child behaviors and risks, and 8th place for housing and environmental quality. Sweden’s GDP per capita is $40, 900 and has a child poverty rate of less than 10 percent.
Finland’s average score for child well-being was 5.4. The country ranked 2nd place for the material well-being of its children and 3rd place for the level of their health and safety. Child educational achievement and participation was at 4th place, behaviors and risks to the well-being of children ranked 12th place, and Finland’s housing and environment for children ranked 6th place. The country’s GDP per capita is $35, 900 and it has a child poverty rate of less than 5 percent, ranking highest in this respect than all other countries featured in the study.
Iceland averaged at 5 for overall child well-being, and ranked in the top 10 in every measured dimension of child welfare. The country made 4th place for the material wellbeing of its children, 1st for their health and safety, 10th for educational achievement; 3rd for behaviors and risks to child welfare, and 7th for the quality of their housing and environment. The GDP per capita in Iceland is $40, 700 and the child poverty rate is under 10 percent.
Norway takes 2nd place in the 29 country comparison with an average score of 4.6 for child well-being. The country took 3rd place for the material welfare of its children, 7th for the quality of their health and safety; 6th place in academic participation and achievement, 4th in the behaviors and risks of children, and 3rd in the overall quality of their housing and environment. The GDP per capita in Norway is $55,400 and the child poverty rate is less than 10 percent.
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.