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Netherlands leads the way in child welfare, UNICEF report reveals

UNICEF recently published a report about child welfare in the world's 29 richest nations.

A new study may prove to be a source of stress relief for immigrants who wire money to the Netherlands in order to provide for their families. That's because it indicates that among the world's most prosperous nations, no country is better at ensuring the overall safety, health and well-being of children than the Western Europe nation.

According to the report, which was conducted by the United Nations – or more specifically the United Nations Children's Fund, otherwise known as UNICEF – the Netherlands is the runaway leader in health statistics for children in many different categories. This includes material well-being, physical health and safety, educational awareness, behavior, as well as housing and environmental concerns.

While there are nearly 200 countries in the world, UNICEF confined its report to only those countries that are the wealthiest, which was determined by their gross domestic product. Of the 29 nations that were analyzed, the Netherlands came out on top.

Interestingly, however, wealth didn't necessarily correlate with overall well-being.

"There does not appear to be a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being," the report stated. "In other words, country wealth does not always mean happier and healthier children."

Separate analysis has revealed this to be true as well. Previous reports have shown that several countries in Latin America and parts of Europe have some of the happiest people on earth, but their GDP was a fraction of other more prosperous nations.

There's also something special about this general region of the world. UNICEF notes that in previous studies, countries like Finland, Iceland and Norway – just north of the Baltic States – have routinely been high among the ranks of countries whose children are doing well health-wise.

UNICEF: Public policy plays large role in child wellness
Much of this stems from government investments, the report found.

"Child poverty is not inevitable but policy-susceptible," the study said. "And some countries have been doing much better than others at protecting their most vulnerable children."

There were several sub-categories of the five factors that UNICEF looked at in order to draw their conclusions. For instance, for material well-being, researchers based this on monetary deprivation and material deprivation. In both of these sub-section, children in the Netherlands fared well. The same was found for educational well-being, which was determined based on scholastic achievements and participation, or the percentage of children in the Netherlands who are in school and graduating.

Gordon Alexander, director of research at UNICEF, noted that this study is meant to encourage governments to focus more on how they can improve children's lives so that they can thrive once they become adults, contributing to their own well-being as well as their country's financial status.

"Whether in today's time of economic crisis, or in better financial periods, UNICEF urges governments and social partners to place children and young people at the heart of their decision-making processes," said Alexander. "For every new policy measure considered or introduced, governments explicitly have to explore the impact and effects on children, families with children, adolescents and young adults. These groups do not have a voice in the political processes, or their voices are too seldom heard."

As for the United States, the country's child welfare finished 26th out of 29 countries, far below what most people may think of when they think of the U.S. and it's standing in comparison to other industrialized nations.

One area where the children's welfare was weak was educational well-being. Despite spending more for education per capita than any other country in the world, UNICEF ranked the U.S. as having the third-worst performance record based on achievement and participation.

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