Children in rich countries are not happy; UNICEF  

About 333 million children, or 1 in 6, live in extreme poverty, enduring conditions of deprivation that encompass basic needs, dignity, opportunities

Living in a wealthy country does not bring happiness to children nor did it guarantee them better health or education. This has come up in the new report card of the UNICEF.

The “Innocenti Report Card” of the UNICEF said that even countries with good social, economic and environmental conditions are a long way from meeting the targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report card analysed 41 rich countries against three main categories such as mental well-being, physical health and child mortality.

The UNICEF said that children in Nordic countries have the highest rates of well being wherein children in Mexico and Romania were having the highest levels of life satisfaction.

It said that more than ten in 1,00,000 adolescents aged 15–19 years committed suicide in some rich countries. The report card also showed that child mortality rates are still over 1 per 1,000 in more than a quarter of countries. In the richest countries, more than two in five adolescents are dissatisfied with their bodies.

As far as education is concerned, many children still reach 15 years of age without having basic reading and mathematics skills. Many of them do not feel confident in their skills to make friends, the report card pointed out.

In almost half of rich countries, more than one in five children lives in poverty and one in 15 infants born in rich countries are underweight at birth.


Feeling positive and being in good mental health are key aspects of quality of life. However, the report points out that a striking number of children in rich countries do not have good mental well-being. In 12 of 41 countries, less than 75 per cent of children aged 15 have high life satisfaction. It also said that suicide was one of the most common causes of death for adolescents aged 15 to 19.

Physical health

The report card points out that one in 15 infants in rich countries is born with low weight It said that more than one in three children is overweight or obese in almost ten rich countries.

Skills for life

The children in rich countries also lack basic academic and social skills by the time they reach 15 years. Two in five children do not acquire basic reading and mathematics skills by age 15. In seven countries, the number drops to less than one in two. For an equally important skill set – feeling confident in developing interpersonal relationships – most children agree that they make friends easily. But in 18 countries more than one in four children disagree.


Poor-quality relationships ƒ

The UNICEF says that children should have good relationships for their growth. Many children in rich countries feel to lack opportunities to participate in decisions at home and at school.

Bullying by peers

This is a serious issue and has lasting negative impact on relationships and health. In some countries, at least one in ten parents report no family or friends they can count on for help with looking after their children.

Lack of resources ƒ

In almost half of rich countries, more than one in five children lives in poverty. These children are at greater risk of depression, low academic achievement and obesity. Another thing is that many children say that good play and leisure facilities are not available in their neighbourhoods, which is linked to much higher levels of happiness.

Gaps in services ƒ

The UNICEF in its report card said that across 29 European countries, one in seven parents with a child under 3, has unmet childcare needs. Adolescents disengaged from education and the labour market face a difficult start to adult life. In five rich countries, more than 10 per cent of young people aged 15 to 19 are not in education, training or work.

Gaps in family policy

Expectations to prioritize work can lead to long hours and stress that reduce the time and energy parents have for their children. The report notes that parental leave is less than ten weeks in at least five countries. Leave reserved for fathers makes up only one tenth of all parental leave. On average, two out of five employees in Europe found it difficult to fulfil family responsibilities at least several times per month, the report said.


For every child to enjoy a good childhood, UNICEF has called on the countries to act on three fronts:

Consult children; they see things from a different viewpoint and express serious concern for the future of the environment, how much they value relationships and participating in decisions. ƒ

Connect policies; carefully integrated policies that complement and strengthen one another are key to improving child well-being. ƒ

Create strong foundations; the Sustainable Development Goals provide a roadmap to ensuring child well-being now and for the future.


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