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    11 April 2013

    Children's well-being: Central and Eastern Europe closing the gap

    VIENNA, 11 April 2013 (UN Information Service) - Countries of Central and Eastern Europe are beginning to close the gap with the more established industrial economies of the West in terms of child well-being according to a new United Nations study which ranks children's well-being in 29 industrialized countries.

    The rankings are part of a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) study entitled 'Report Card 11: Child well-being in rich countries,' which charts the achievements of the world's most advanced economies from 2000-2010. The study measures development according to five dimensions of children's lives: material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviour and risks, and housing and environment.

    The study found that child poverty in these developed countries is particularly susceptible to governments' policies, and warns against measures that cut services and protection to children, as they are a highly vulnerable part of the population.

    The Netherlands, along with four Nordic countries - Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden - top the list, while Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain are at the bottom.

    Some indicators such as child poverty and child health show that the countries of Eastern and Central Europe have been catching up over the past 10 years. In the overall ranking Slovenia was 12th, Hungary 20th and Slovakia was 23rd. In comparison: Austria was 18 th, France was 13 th and the United States was 26th.

    Hungary recorded the biggest fall in the infant mortality rate of all 29 countries on the list, while at the same time having a particularly significant rise in the further education enrolment rate. Smoking prevalence among young teenagers is however among the highest in the study.

    Slovenia finished right after the Nordics in terms of child poverty rates as well as health and safety, but is among the countries with the highest child obesity.

    Slovakia was about average in most categories, with one of the highest infant mortality rates and many teenage pregnancies.

    The ranking is not entirely dependent on a country's wealth, as the study did not find a strong relationship between income per capita 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.

    UNICEF stated that the current findings show progress, but warned that the study was carried out before many countries implemented austerity measures and budget cuts because of the economic crisis.

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