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Best countries for children

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Evgeny Atamanenko // Shutterstock

Best countries for children

Children around the world live vastly different lives, from places where child labor is legal and common (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Myanmar), to countries where education is compulsory and lengthy (Norway, the United Kingdom, and South Korea). Some nations, such as Italy, even require children to attend preschool. On other fronts, marriage and motherhood among teenage girls are still widespread (even in developed countries), and both are often viewed by international organizations and human rights groups as inhibitors to economic and social growth.

To find out which countries in the world are best for children, Stacker looked to international NGO Save the Children's Global Childhood Report 2019. Save the Children is a group working to promote the welfare and rights of young people everywhere; the organization's annual report is the result of data compiled on the livelihoods of children worldwide. Save the Children created an index score on a scale from 1 to 1,000 that reflects the average level of performance across a set of indicators related to child health, education, labor, marriage, childbirth, and violence. Countries with higher scores are better at protecting and providing for children. Data points specifically look at: 

  • under-5 mortality rates (deaths per 1,000 live births);
  • percent of primary and secondary school-age children not in school;
  • percent of girls aged 15 to 19 currently married or in a union;
  • and births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19.

Findings reveal the Central African Republic comes in last internationally for children while the United States ties with China for at a middling #36 with a score of 941 in between Kuwait at #35 and Russia and Bosnia & Herzegovina (tied at #37).

Stacker broke this listing out into the top-50 countries for children internationally and included the percent of a country’s population that is 0 to 14 years old for reference, provided by the CIA World Factbook.

Read on to discover the 50 best countries in the world for children

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Pixabay

#50. Montenegro

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 18.22%
- Index score: 921
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.5
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 7.2%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 12.1

Founded in 2006, this mountainous Balkan state, formerly part of Yugoslavia, struggles with infrastructure issues which limits its ability to deliver education and health care effectively. Outside of the capital of Podgorica, access to health care remains limited. But its biggest challenge lies in caring for thousands of undocumented Roma children who live on the streets, in remote rural enclaves, and refugee camps. Torrential rains in November 2019 created dangerous flooding in parts of Montenegro and damaged the country's infrastructure fromroads to bridges.

 

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Tips For Travellers // Flickr

#49. Bulgaria

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.6%
- Index score: 923
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 7.5
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 7.9%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 8.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 40.3

Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 with high hopes for democracy, a strong economy, and social justice. Today the country is the European Union’s poorest state, with workers making on average just 71.9% of what is required for a living wage. Almost 40% of the country’s citizens live in poverty or social exclusion, with Romany populations disproportionately affected by poverty and Romany children often working instead of attending school. Economic numbers have been improving incrementally over the last several years, however, which is evident in increased enrollment in schools for children.

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hansbirger // Flickr

#48. Oman

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 30.10%
- Index score: 925
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 11.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 3.9%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 3.3%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 7.9

Oman has outpaced almost all countries in its improvements to childhood welfare over the last half-century. The country’s National Human Rights Commission established in 2008 has greatly improved children’s health and access to education, and over the last 12 years the country has put forth multiple laws related to childhood, human trafficking, and care of persons with disabilities. But while things like child labor laws preventing children younger than 15 from working have been on the books since 2003, some argue these laws are not sufficiently communicated or enforced.

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DFID - UK Department for International Development // Flickr

#47. Lebanon

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 23.32%
- Index score: 926
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 7.8
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 20.1%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 3.3%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 12.2

With over 25% of its residents living in poverty, one-fifth living with unimproved sanitation facilities, and a glaring lack of social safety programs to help with things like medical care, food, housing, or counseling, Lebanese children face multiple uphill battles. The country’s prosperity through the mid-1900s as a center of Middle Eastern trade (despite its small size and population) was disrupted by a debilitating civil war that stretched from 1975 to 1990 and from which the country has yet to recover. That war also caused extensive damage to schools and caused lasting damage to children’s access to education.

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Funky Tee // Flickr

#46. Serbia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.35%
- Index score: 927
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 5.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 4.7%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 3.1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 19.3

More than two decades after the brutal civil war in the former Yugoslavia, Serbia is stable and prosperous. The country has seen a marked decrease in mortality rates for children under 5 since 2000, extreme poverty across Serbia has been all but obliterated, and social and child protection policy reforms enacted in the early 2000s have yielded improvements from staffing at day-care centers to universal child allowances for children with severe disabilities.

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Pixabay

#45. Saudi Arabia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 25.74%
- Index score: 928
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 7.4
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 5.6%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 8.3

Enormously wealthy Saudi Arabia bridges the divide between modernity and ancient tradition in the Middle East, while also serving as one of the greatest examples of wealth disparity on the planet. While the percentage of children attending school is quite high, mortality rates are surprisingly high for such a developed and affluent nation. In February 2019, King Salman signed off on a 29.9 billion riyal (about $79 billion USD) development plan for Riyadh to improve the capital city’s health and education sectors (including the construction of several new schools), infrastructure, and transportation. This investment dovetails with another, 14-year project begun two years ago to overhaul the country’s health-care system.

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Pixabay

#44. Tunisia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 25.25%
- Index score: 929
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 13
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 13.3%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 1.2%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 7.6

While illiteracy rates and education levels for girls and women in Arab or Islamic countries are historically statistically low, Tunisia is an exception: The country enjoys a whopping 96.1% female literacy rate. The country was the first in its region to finalize a national child health policy in 2003, although the country’s poverty rate (15.2% in 2015) and high infant mortality rates show there is plenty of room to continue to improve. Meanwhile, Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, which led to the 2011 unseating of President Ben Ali and served as ground zero for the ensuing Arab Spring uprisings, led to emigrations resulting in unsafe or unsanitary living conditions for children who had fled Tunisia with their families. Those uprisings also caused a flood of refugees into Tunisia, creating additional challenges to childhood education as the country works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure all children have access to school.

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Tobias Scheck // Flickr

#43. United Arab Emirates

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.39%
- Index score: 931
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 9.1
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 5.1%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 6.7%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 28.2

Made rich by its oil reserves, the UAE is divided into seven emirates, or provinces, the wealthiest and best-known being Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The country’s wealth has somewhat translated into high quality of life for kids, with high school enrollment and low - Under-5 mortality rates. Elsewhere, the country is lagging. The country regularly ranks among the worst in the world for air pollution, with most cities’ air pollution exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommended levels. Experts from the Emirates Coalition for Green Schools and the Emirates Green Building Council have called for urgent upgrades to outdated school buildings to improve air quality for children; while household air pollution is one of the top causes of death in low-income rural and urban households.

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Pixabay

#42. Ukraine

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.95%
- Index score: 932
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 8.8
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 4.9%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 6.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 24.7

As is typical with newly independent countries, Ukraine experienced significant economic hardship in the first decade following its separation from the Soviet Union. Swift economic growth followed until 2008, when the country was gripped with a financial crisis that carries over to today, with the unemployment rate hovering at 8%. Ukraine is home to the lion’s share of the measles outbreak in Europe—over 54,000 of the 83,000 measles cases reported in Europe in 2018 came from Ukraine, and the country has already reported more than 15,000 cases of the measles in 2019. Only 31% of 6-year-olds in Ukraine in 2016 were administered the recommended two measles shots, pointing to a significant gap in attention to children’s health care in that country.

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Ken and Nyetta // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Kazakhstan

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 26.09%
- Index score: 933
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 10.0
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 0.9%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 6.0%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 28.4

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan has gone from a lower-middle-income country to an upper-middle-income country. But in a nation where more than a quarter of the population is under the age of 15, Kazakhstan is a study in contrasts in quality of life for children. Birth rates for girls age 15-19 are high, while nearly 97% of children attend school. Just over 9% of children are overweight, while 3% suffer from malnutrition. And while girls in primary school have a net enrollment rate of 99.9% and just about 100% of girls transition from primary to secondary school, early marriages mean many young women drop out or do not achieve additional qualifications that would allow them to acquire jobs that could provide financial independence.

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#40. Qatar

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 12.7%
- Index score: 933
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 7.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 10.7%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 10.2

The world’s richest country has remained an economic stronghold despite an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar that has been in place since 2017 by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. That economic prosperity is evident throughout the country, with universal offerings like free and equal health care for any citizen, tourist, or expat. Qatar’s low percentage of teen girls who are married or in a union may be in part due to a 2017 law that raised the minimum age for marriage to 18 for both sexes, up from 16 for girls (with signed parental consent).

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chany14 // Flickr

#39. Russia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 17.21%
- Index score: 940
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 7.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 3.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 7.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 22.5

Russia enjoys a high level of school attendance for young people and a strong overall index score. But the country also has among the world’s fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemics and passed a law in 2017 that decriminalized certain forms of domestic violence. A first-time offender who beats a family member now receives a fine instead of a two-year prison term, as long as the battery wasn’t so extreme the victim was hospitalized.

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Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Bosnia & Herzegovina

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 13.24%
- Index score: 940
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 5.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: No data available
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.6%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 10.4

Still recovering from the violent war and ethnic cleansing that consumed the region in the mid-1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina has struggled to provide adequate amenities for children. The country is well below average for preschool attendance (however that number went up in 2019), and the youth unemployment rate is approaching 60%.

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Pixabay

#37. China

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 17.22%
- Index score: 941
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 9.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 7.6%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 3.1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 6.5

China has seen giant jumps in economic prosperity over the last 37 years, with the poverty rate nosediving from 88% in 1981 to 6.5% in 2012 and just 2% in 2018. Because poverty corresponds to children’s health and education, these advances in China have drastically improved along with the country’s economy.

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Jet Fabara // U.S. Air Force

#36. United States

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 18.62%
- Index score: 941
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 6.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 3.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 5.8%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 20.6

Often considered the most prosperous country in the world, the United States performs shockingly poor in quality of life for its youngest citizens. A surprising 21% of children live in poverty, while in 2017 alone an estimated 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect.

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Francisco Anzola // Flickr

#35. Kuwait

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 24.81%
- Index score: 942
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 8.1
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 7.5%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 5.3%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 9.4

For being consistently ranked among the top-10 richest countries in the world per capita, Kuwait has a spotty record for children’s care. The country faces ongoing issues with corporal punishment in schools, women losing custody of their children for remarrying outside of the family, and Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis being unable to pass citizenship along to their children.

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Henrik Palm // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Belarus

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.91%
- Index score: 951
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 7.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 18.0

This tiny former Soviet nation mimics many of its neighbors in quality of life for children: high rates of school attendance, as well as of youth motherhood. Belarus allocates approximately 2% of its GDP to child benefits, including 11 different benefits for families. The country also offers paid maternity leave until a child is 3.

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Harold Laudeus // Flickr

#33. Bahrain

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 18.88%
- Index score: 958
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 7.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.3%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 5.3%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 13.5

The tiny island nation of Bahrain is socially conservative, and family life is so highly revered it’s protected in the country’s constitution. Bahrain’s education system is free and one of the highest-ranked in the Persian Gulf, and school is mandatory for all children between the ages of 6 and 14. Economically, however, things are not so great for children: Unemployment in the country is highest for people between the ages of 15 and 24.

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Pixabay

#32. Malta

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.29%
- Index score: 961
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 6.4
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 5.7%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 16.8

Malta has a population of just 442,000, and its children are generally well-cared for, with Eurostat figures from 2017 show 98% of children in Malta aged 16 and younger are in “good or very good” health. Two challenges the country continues to face are childhood obesity among boys and teen pregnancy.

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#31. Hungary

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.66%
- Index score: 963
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.5
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 6.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.7%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 19.8

With the average amount of people in the European Union living below the poverty line at 17%, Hungary comes in well below that at 14.6%, which translates to better services and amenities for the country’s children. The country has a tax-funded universal health-care system that covers 100% of the population. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken things a step further to help bolster Hungary’s workforce: He’s proposed scholarships to universities for people promising to remain in the country; and offered to absolve any Hungarian woman with four (or more!) children of income tax.

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Kristoffer Trolle // Flickr

#30. Greece

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 13.72%
- Index score: 964
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 5.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 7.8%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 1.8%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 7.5

Greece has been struggling to make a comeback from its financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 and its aftermath that sent youth unemployment skyrocketing to 46% in May 2017. That number fell to 36.6% in September 2018 and is projected to be down to 30.6% in 2020. While that represents a significant improvement, those numbers demonstrate how uncertain the job market is for Greek children enrolled in school today.

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Pixabay

#29. Croatia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.21%
- Index score: 965
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 6.3%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.0%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 9.4

One of the European Union’s newer member states, Croatia has quickly embraced the modernity of its western neighbors and is a popular tourist destination for people from around the world. Elementary education is compulsory for boys and girls in Croatia; students can then opt whether to continue on to secondary school and, later, college.

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Pixabay

#28. Latvia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.24%
- Index score: 967
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.2
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.8%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.6%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 13.8

Latvia has struggled for decades with low birth rates, resulting in a small youth population. The country is taking strides to continually improve its care of children, including sending representatives in January 2019 to attend workshops put on by the World Health Organization designed to reduce violence against children.

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kallerna // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Estonia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 16.30%
- Index score: 967
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 4.5%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 4.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 13.3

Since gaining its independence in 1991, Estonia has quickly modernized its small population by joining both NATO and the European Union in 2004. The country hit a record-low childhood poverty level of just 3.2% in 2018.

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#26. New Zealand

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 19.62%
- Index score: 968
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 5.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 1.5%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 20.6

This former Commonwealth country scores well in all areas except teen births, despite about 27% of the country’s children living in poverty. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to change that statistic, with some initiatives such as cash and housing help for low-income families, winter energy payments, and newborn benefits.

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#25. Poland

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.80%
- Index score: 968
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 5.3%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 1.2%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 13.0

Poland’s children enjoy the benefits associated with being in one of the fastest-growing economies within the European Union. The country has a youth unemployment rate of 10.5% as of December 2018, and the government provides free health care to all children and pregnant women.

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Arbron // Flickr

#24. Canada

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.43%
- Index score: 971
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 5.1
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 1.7%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 9.8

For being the world’s second-largest country (after Russia) and so sparsely populated, education in Canada is widely available and attended. The country’s education system regularly ranks in the top 10 globally. Canada is benefiting children in other ways too, including the implementation of its 2015 Poverty Reduction Strategy. That plan includes the Canada Child Benefit, a tax-free payment program for eligible families to offer assistance in raising children. That single line item in the robust strategic plan has already helped to bring roughly 300,000 children out of poverty.

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#23. Denmark

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 16.57%
- Index score: 971
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 3.8%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 3.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 4.2

Quality of life for Danish kids is high all around, and it doesn’t hurt that education is free and compulsory—resulting in virtually 100% literacy across the entire adult population. The country ranked #12 in the World Top 20 Project, an initiative that looks at the role a country’s education system has played in stabilizing its economy and developing its society.

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Anna & Michal // Flickr

#22. United Kingdom

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 17.59%
- Index score: 972
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 0.8%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.9%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 13.5

Free and compulsory education is de rigueur in the U.K., resulting in nearly 100% of its children being enrolled in primary or secondary school. And perhaps due to the country’s robust National Health Service, infant and childhood mortality rates are very low.

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Šarūnas Burdulis // Flickr

#21. Lithuania

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.11%
- Index score: 973
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 0.8%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 11.4

Lithuania enjoys a sky-high 99.8% literacy rate among 15- to-24-year-olds, showing its compulsory education system for all children between the ages of 6 and 16 is a success. The country allocates 13.29% of government spending each year for education.

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#20. France

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 18.48%
- Index score: 973
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.2
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.5%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.7%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 8.8

France takes its children’s rights seriously. The country is a signatory on every international text preserving children’s rights and helped to commence the Council of Europe campaign to shield children from sexual exploitation and abuse. France also helped bring to fruition the 2003 EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict (revised in 2008) and the 2007 EU Guidelines on the Rights of the Child.

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#19. Japan

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 12.71%
- Index score: 973
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 1.7%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 4.2

Japan’s plummeting birth rate has been the source of much panic for years, but the quality of life for kids in that country is incredibly high. To battle long-standing stigmas against single mothers, organizations like Single Mother by Choice and the government’s child-rearing allowance have begun to turn the tide.

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#18. Israel

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 27.26%
- Index score: 974
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 1.9%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 9.7

Israel is a well-educated country overall, but there is a significant disparity between demographics within the country. Arabs and Jews overwhelmingly go to separate schools, in large part because Israeli schools didn’t begin integrating until 1984. For this reason, Arab students on average receive up to 88% less funding than Jewish students for the schools they attend.

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Cayambe // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Luxembourg

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 16.74%
- Index score: 974
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 7.5%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 5.4

Children on average attend schools for 13.9 years in Luxembourg, with 96.6% who start secondary school completing graduation. The country also boasts one of the best health-care systems in Europe, with full access to free public health and a high volume of medical and emergency facilities throughout the country as well as in bordering countries.

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#16. Switzerland

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.23%
- Index score: 975
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 4.2
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 6.1%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 3.1

Famously neutral Switzerland has long fostered a reputation as a stable, idyllic society, an image reflected in its quality of life for kids. Like its health care, Switzerland’s education system is free. It’s also extremely diverse and largely decentralized, resulting in a range of options for students from small, local Swiss schools to bilingual schools.

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#15. Australia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 17.75%
- Index score: 975
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.5
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 13.3

Australia has a high rate of school enrollment and a low mortality rate despite a finding last October that over 3 million Australians live in poverty. That finding led to calls by the Australian Council of Social Service for two days each week of subsidized early childhood care and guaranteed education for every child.

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Kristoffer Trolle // Flickr

#14. Spain

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.29%
- Index score: 977
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.1
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 1.1%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 3.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 8.7

Despite its recent economic troubles and massive wealth inequality, Spain gets high marks in general for children. There’s still room to grow: Around 40% live in poverty throughout the country, and Prime Minister Sanchez recently proposed a controversial plan to repatriate migrant children seeking refuge in Spain to their home countries, even in cases where the children fled extreme poverty, violence, or forced marriages.

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Pixabay

#13. Cyprus

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 15.64%
- Index score: 977
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 3%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 3.1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 4.7

Current Cyprus law states that child benefits are only available to a parent who has lived in Cyprus for five consecutive and uninterrupted years. The country’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Leda Koursoumba, seeks to change that, calling the present law discriminatory and demanding equal rights for all children. “It cannot be that a child is deprived of benefits due to their ethnic background or the duration of their stay in the areas controlled by the Republic,” she said in a February 2019 memo to the Cyprus parliament.

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Ricardo Resende // Unsplash

#12. Portugal

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.01%
- Index score: 978
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.6%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 9.9

Portugal is still working to come back from a financial crisis that stretched from 2009 to 2016 and was marked by mounting government debt, high unemployment, and a tumbling GDP. The country has struggled to find places to cut the budget which has meant reductions in school budgets in a country where 63% of adults did not graduate high school.

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Pixabay

#11. Iceland

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 20.4%
- Index score: 978
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.1
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 4.9%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 7.3

Children in Iceland are only half as likely as American children to be poor, and the country has leveraged its laws to keep kids away from unsafe work environments. Today Iceland has no documented instances of child labor.

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Pixabay

#10. Belgium

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 17.2%
- Index score: 979
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.8
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 1.6%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 2.2%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 5.1

Like its western European neighbors, Belgium scores points all around in quality of life for all its kids. The country features publicly funded healthcare and works with the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation of the Federal Public Service Department to deliver food aid to Belgium’s lower class.

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Nick Fewings // Unsplash

#9. Italy

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 13.6%
- Index score: 980
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.4
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.4%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 1.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 6.2

A prosperous country with a high quality of life for people of all ages, Italy ties with South Korea (#10) and Iceland (#8) for taking care of its kids. School begins at age 3 with preschool and is compulsory for all Italian children from age 6-16.

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BaitoeyPYN // Shutterstock

#8. South Korea

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 13.03%
- Index score: 980
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 3.1%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 1.7

South Korea boasts the fourth-largest economy in Asia and 11th-largest on the planet. The country consistently ranks among the most developed, advanced nations in the world, with its children enjoying many of those benefits—from almost perfect school enrolment numbers, low instances of teenage marriage, low birth rates among teenagers, and a very low mortality rate. But as multiculturalism in the country grows, South Korea is being forced to grapple with its deprivation of rights for undocumented children in the country, now numbering around 20,000.

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Pixabay

#7. Germany

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 12.83%
- Index score: 982
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.7
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: No data available%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 6.8

As the 17th most populous country in the world and the largest in the European Union, Germany’s population also has the highest percentage of immigrants in the EU (roughly 12%). The country is second only to the United States as a popular destination for immigrants. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opinion that immigrants might compensate for Germany’s worker shortage due to a drastic fertility decline, opposition to such migration is growing in the country. The conflict is, in part, because of the complicated task of sufficiently educating the estimated 400,000 refugee children currently in the country.

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Giuseppe Milo // Flickr

#6. Ireland

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 21.37%
- Index score: 982
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 3.5
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 0.2%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 1.1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 10.1

Unlike other high-scoring countries, this devoutly Catholic nation has a birth rate neck and shoulders above the countries ranked on either side of it. Despite its other high rankings, Ireland is still facing down the toll its 2008 recession had on the population: A full third of those living in poverty today are children. That fact has done little to prevent kids from being kids, however; the Save the Children ranking found no evident threat of childhood mortality or lack of education access. Every child in the country has access to free, state-run primary and post-primary education; and Ireland goes a step further by offering the Early Start Programme for disadvantaged children living in urban areas, and the Rutland Street Project for the Dublin inner city community.

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Maxxii // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Norway

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 17.99%
- Index score: 985
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.6
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.1%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.1%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 5.7

Norway is one of the richest countries on Earth, with children reaping many benefits of such an economic position such as the excellent public education and universal health care. There’s just one thing—the country is short on children. The gap in people of working age will mean a drop in taxes being paid to continue Norway’s extensive social programs. "Norway needs more children!” The country’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a recent New Year’s speech. “I don't think I need to tell anyone how this is done."

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VisitLakeland // Flickr

#4. Finland

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 16.44%
- Index score: 985
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.3
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 1.7%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.3%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 6.9

All children residing in Finland have access to free health care, and parents with Finnish national health insurance can further take out a private health care insurance policy for their children. The country also famously managed to halve childhood obesity rates in the city of Seinäjoki by coordinating the same services across departments of urban planning, education, childcare, and recreation—from high-quality, healthy food to adequate physical activity.

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Janez Kotar // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Slovenia

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 14.8%
- Index score: 985
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.1
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 2.8%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.5%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 4.3

With Slovenia’s high rankings across the board for creating a sound place for kids to be kids, adults in the country are eyeing perfection by encouraging an educational overhaul. So far, over 21,000 people have signed onto a petition calling for less homework, smaller class sizes, and a more thorough and comprehensive grading system.

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Oleksiy Mark // Shutterstock

#2. Sweden

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 17.54%
- Index score: 986
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.8
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 0.7%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.3%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 5.3

Children in Sweden have access to it all: from the great outdoors to high-speed internet. The country banned corporal punishment decades before others on this list, in 1979, and took things a step further by making it illegal for parents to use violence or humiliation against their children.

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IamDoctorEgg // Shutterstock

#1. Singapore

- Percent of population 0-14 years old: 12.77%
- Index score: 989
- Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 2.8
- Percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school: 0.1%
- Percent of girls aged 15-19 currently married or in union: 0.4%
- Births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19: 3.7

Singapore takes home the top spot in best countries for children, and it’s no surprise why. Its enviable rankings are consistent across the board, proving this country is providing for children starting with support for parents (working parents of Singapore citizen children can take six days of paid childcare leave every year), pregnant mothers (expecting mothers can share up to four weeks of their maternity leave, which can be anywhere from eight to 16 weeks, with their working husbands), and children up through adulthood.

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