In early September, the UNICEF Research Center "Innocenti" published a rating of countries with the best indicators for the lives of children: the Netherlands topped the list, Denmark came second, and Norway came third. Although Russia did not fall into the focus of this study at all, we decided to figure out what factors were assessed by experts in the formation of this rating.
A series of similar UNICEF newsletters have been published for over 20 years. They compare national data to rank EU and OECD countries for indicators affecting child well-being. Worlds of Influence: Understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries uses statistics from before the COVID-19 pandemic in forty-one countries. They were analyzed in nine categories:
Mental health of children - here it is assessed how satisfied children are with their lives according to sociological surveys and what are the indicators of adolescent suicide in the country (in the age range of 15-19 years).
Physical health of children - this block took into account the percentage of children in the country with obesity and what is the cause of child mortality (in the range from 4 to 18 years).
Children's Skills - Percentage of children who are good at reading and solving math problems at age 15; percentage of children who easily make new social contacts.
Pastime - how much time children spend outdoors and how much they sit in front of a screen.
Relationships - how children perceive their relationship with their parents; percentage of children who believe that their opinion is taken into account in planning family time; percentage of children who have experienced bullying.
Community - does someone help parents in raising their children; the ratio of working hours of parents to hours that parents can devote to their children.
Resources - do the children have textbooks at home that they can use to study; Are there family centers in the area where the children live?
Family policy - how long maternity leave for mothers and fathers can last, are there any state vaccination programs, what is the percentage of children born under 2500 g.
Economic and environmental context - average pay per capita in the country, unemployment rate, prevalence of domestic violence, level of air pollution and quality of drinking water.
The authors of this study came to disappointing conclusions and believe that even most wealthy countries are failing to convert their economic potential into a radical improvement in living conditions for children.
Scientists draw attention to the fact that none of the countries can boast that all of the above indicators are at the highest level there. For example, the Netherlands, which took the lead, were in first place in the mental health of children, but in the list for physical health they took only ninth place.
And Japan, which topped the list of countries in terms of children's physical health, was in 37th place in the ranking for mental health.
So, in general, all states have to do even more work to ensure that children are healthy and feel happy. Indeed, unfortunately, even in rich countries, every fifth child still lives in poverty.
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