The Netherlands ranks first and Romania last among 29
developed countries examined in a UNICEF report on the well-being of children
that warns budget-slashing governments to spare a thought for future
Nordic countries held the rest of the top five places in a
survey by the United Nations Children's Fund based on criteria of material
well-being, health and safety, education, behavior and risk, housing and
Britain was ranked 16th and the United States 26th.In its
"Report Card 11: Child well-being in rich countries", UNICEF urged
governments to place children at the heart of their decision-making in their
efforts to slash national debt burdens.
The effect of
A 2008 financial crisis has led to austerity policies across
the West and bailouts for several European countries."For every new policy
measure considered or introduced, governments explicitly have to explore the
impact and effects on children, families with children, adolescents and young
adults," UNICEF research chief Gordon Alexander said in a statement.
Examples of problems found by UNICEF included relatively
high rates of teenage births in the United States, Britain and Romania, smoking
rates of over 10% among children in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary,
Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia, and the provision of breakfast on a
daily basis for fewer than half the children in Romania and Slovenia.
The report showed that per capita GDP, a standard measure of
national wealth, did not always translate into better overall child well-being.
It pointed out that 12th-placed Slovenia ranked higher than a wealthier Canada
at No. 17, while tiny Portugal at No. 15 ranked higher than the United States.
UNICEF said most of the data in the report was from 2010, so
it could not reflect on the outcome of decisions made since then. But it said
three years of economic hardship over that time "do not bode well for the
present or near future".
8% smoked at least once
On the "behaviours and risks" dimension of child
well-being, there is good news across the board, UNICEF said."For
instance: among 11-15 year-olds in the 29 countries under review, only 8% said they smoke cigarettes at least once a week; just 15% reported
having been drunk at least twice in their life; 99% of girls do not get
pregnant whilst still a teenager."
However, exercise levels are low, with the United States and
Ireland the only countries in which more than 25% of children report exercising
for at least an hour a day.
Report Card 11 also included the views of children on their own
life satisfaction. These findings were broadly in line with the data-based
measurement of child well-being."We need to know more about how children
see and evaluate their own lives," Alexander said.