Thursday, February 15, 2007

UNICEF's Annual Report on Children's Well-Being: Canada Ranks 12

The UN released its annual report on children's well-being in the world's 21 richest (OECD) countries yesterday, showing a continued negligence on the part of powerful nations when it comes to the care of their youngest citizens. While Canada came in 2nd for Education and 6th for Material Well-Being, we scored 12 overall, tied with Greece. This is particularly surprising given that Canada is consistently placed at the top of the UN's Human Development Index (the Quality of Life Survey). With low scores in young people's sense of well-being (15th), risky behaviours (17th), peer/family relationships (18th), and health and safety (13th), Canada will have some work to do before its kids catch up with its adults. We also have a disproportionately large number of families living below the poverty line, a large percentage of which are single-parent households.

Meanwhile, the US and the UK occupied the lowest overall scores, coming in 20th and 21st respectively, with low scores in all six of the measured categories. I can't help but think of the soaring childhood obesity rates in both of these countries, and wonder how much all of these things might be linked. For example, the US scored last in health and safety, which measures things like low birth weight and infant mortality (both of which are often associated with developing countries and low-income groups), but also very low (20th) in peer/family relationships and risky behaviour.

Here's the full list:
1. The Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Ireland
10. Belgium
11. Germany
12. Canada (tie)
12. Greece (tie)
14. Poland
15. Czech Republic
16. France
17. Portugal
18. Austria
19. Hungary
20. United States
21. United Kingdom

And here are the top scorers for each of the six categories measured:
Material Well-Being: Sweden
Health and Safety: Sweden
Educational Well-Being: Belgium
Family and Peer Relationahips: Italy
Behaviours and Risks: Sweden
Subjective Well-Being: The Netherlands

You can download the report, read the UNICEF press release, or check out this article in yesterday's Globe and Mail (registration may be required after 7 days) for more information.

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