A new report from UNICEF suggests the well-being of children living in Canada is lower than those growing up in many other wealthy countries.
Canada ranks 17th of 29 countries in an overall ranking of child well-being, compiled by UNICEF. The ranking of the 29 developed countries is based on five categories:
1. Material well-being.
2. Health and safety.
4. Behaviours and risk.
5. Housing and environment.
The report shows Canada’s standing hasn’t improved since a prior report in 2007. The first report was based on data from 2001-03, while the current one contains data from 2009-10.
Netherlands topped the overall ranking, followed by Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden, which rounded out the top five.
Greece, the United States, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania were at the bottom of the overall ranking. The survey excluded some wealthy countries, including Japan, Mexico and Australia, due to a lack of data. UNICEF states that the study does not find a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being. For instance, Slovenia ranks higher than Canada, the Czech Republic higher than Austria, and Portugal higher than the United States.
While Canada is thus in the second third of the list. Its rank is particularly low – 27 – on health and safety, with only Latvia and Romania ranking lower. The issues Canada has with children’s health are diverse. Canada is the third from bottom in the ranking of the percentage of overweight children aged 11, 13 and 15 – over 20%, leaving only Greece and the United States behind. While situation with eating fruit and vegetables and daily exercise is better in Canada, and the rates of tobacco smoking are among the lowest, Canada, however, has the highest rate of cannabis smoking in children – 28%. Canada is also among the countries with the largest proportion of children who report being bullied – around 35%.
On infant mortality, which UNICEF counts as deaths under 12 months old per 1,000 live births, Canada ranked 22nd out of the 29 countries.
The report does note that infant mortality rate in all developed countries has dropped to less than 10 per 1,000 live births. The UNICEF data put Canada’s rate around five per 1,000. Of the countries included in the report, only the U.S., Slovakia, Latvia and Romania had rates higher than six per 1,000.
Canada ranked even lower on vaccination rates — 28th out of 29. The report defined the vaccination rates as “average coverage for measles, polio, DPT3 for children age 12 to 23 months.”
Canada is also at the bottom of the rankings with regard to children satisfaction – 24th rank, a reduction by 7 point with the previous report. Only 58% of Canadian children find their classmates kind and helpful, only 63% find their fathers easy to talk to, with the same indicator for mothers being somewhat higher – 79.3%. Canada, France and the United States are the only three countries studies that have found themselves at the bottom of the ranking for all three relationships.
Canada’s rankings are good for education: there is a significant increase in further education rates in Canada, as compared to 2003, with the proportion now exceeding 80%.Canada is also ranked the second in education achievement (average score in PISA tests of reading, math and science literacy), following Finland and ahead of the Netherlands.