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Best countries for children

  • 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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  • #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.

     

  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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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  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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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