14 Feb 2007

New UNICEF report assesses well-being of children in 21 industrialised countries

14 February 2007

A new report providing valuable insight into the well-being of children in 21 industrialised countries, is released today by UNICEF.

Report Card 7, Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries brings together the best of currently available data providing an overview of the state of childhood in the majority of economically advanced nations of the world.

The report for the first time measures and compares overall child well-being across six dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviours and risks, and young people's own subjective sense of their own well-being. In total, 40 separate indicators of child well-being - from relative poverty and child safety, to educational achievement to drug abuse - are brought together in this overview to present a picture of the lives of children.

North-European countries dominate the top half of the table, with child well-being at its highest in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The United Kingdom and the United States find themselves in the bottom of the ranking.

The UK ranks in the bottom third of the country rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed. While the country ranks higher in the educational well-being dimension, the UK lags behind in terms of relative poverty and deprivation, quality of children's relationships with their parents and peers, child health and safety, behaviour and risk-taking and subjective well-being.

"We simply cannot ignore these shocking findings. 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," said Bob Reitemeier, The Children's Society's chief executive.

"The Children's Society's Good Childhood Inquiry is a rare opportunity for children and young people throughout the UK to have their say on where we have gone wrong and what we can do to ensure that every child experiences the good childhood they deserve."

The report shows that there is no strong or consistent relationship between per capita GDP and child well-being. The Czech Republic, for example, achieves a higher overall rank for child well-being than several much wealthier European countries.
Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries shows that no single dimension of well-being stands as a reliable proxy for child well-being as a whole - and that OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries have widely differing rankings for different dimensions of child well-being.

"All countries have weaknesses that need to be addressed and no country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions. By comparing the performance of countries we see what is possible with a commitment to supporting every child to fulfil his or her full potential," said David Bull, UNICEF UK's Executive Director.

The report, does not attempt to explain each country's individual rankings but is intended to stimulate national debate and encourage countries to address areas in which they have room for improvement. "As the maxim goes, if you want to improve something, first you have to measure it," continued Bull.

Notes to Editors:

For further information, interviews or a copy of the report, please contact:
Kathryn Irwin, UNICEF Media, (+44 207) 312-7669