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How well is France doing at looking after its kids?

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How well is France doing at looking after its kids?
Photo: AFP
13:10 CEST+02:00
The organisation Unicef has released a report ranking 41 rich countries according to the well-being of their children. Here are some of the key points about France.
The Unicef report released on Thursday, ranking 41 rich countries according to nine goals identified as the most important for a child's well-being. 
 
These goals are: Ending poverty, ending hunger, ensuring healthy lives, ensuring quality education, ensuring job opportunities, reducing inequalities, creating sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production (linked to environmental sustainability) and the presence of peace, justice and strong institutions. 
 
Here's how France measured up and a look at some of the more interesting take outs from the report. 
 
1. Overall ranking
 
France finished 19th for child well-being overall compared to the UK which came in 13th and the US - ranked one of the worst countries assessed - at 37. 
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given they seem to top most international rankings, it was the Nordic countries and Germany dominating the top of the rankings, with Norway coming top closely followed by Germany and Denmark. Sweden, Finland and Iceland took fourth, fifth and sixth position, respectively. 
 
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Photo: Guy Renard/Flickr
 
2. Best scores
 
France's best score came from its performance in relation to "ending hunger" where it came seventh. This was followed by the quality of education available for which it was ranked 14th overall. 
 
By comparison, the UK's best scores were in reducing inequality (sixth) and responsible consumption and production (ninth). 
 
While the US saw its best ranking (13th) for its progress towards creating sustainable cities and communities and in the decent work and economic growth category where it came 17th. 
 
3. Worst scores 
 
Interestingly, France's best result was the UK's weakest area and vice versa. France's poorest ranking occurred in the reducing inequalities category where it was ranked 34th, with the UK coming 34th in relation to ending hunger.
 
France also scored poorly in relation to responsible consumption and production (25th), the creation of sustainable cities and communities (23rd) and in ensuring decent work and economic growth (20th).  
 
The US came a rather embarrassing 40th in its worst category which ranked it according to the presence of peace, justice and strong institutions in the country. 
 
4. Breastfeeding 
 
Apart from the main rankings one of the points Unicef focused on in the report was breastfeeding

This is one of the few positive health indicators on which rich countries tend to lag behind poorer ones.

The reports indicate that the "proportion of mothers who have ever breastfed is high in all the rich countries
included, with only France and Ireland reporting rates of below 75 per cent."
 
The charity published a table of breastfeeding rates showing that even though both the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, only 23 percent of French women were still breastfeeding their child at six months-old, compared to Norway where data shows 71 percent were breastfeeding at this point and Japan where 63 percent were still breastfeeding. 
 
Some 37 percent of French women have never breastfed, only Ireland at 45 percent had a higher rate, according to the table.
 
READ ALSO: 
 
Photo: AFP
 
5. Social status vs. Education
 
One area where France lags behind the class on is the direct relation between a child's social and economic background and how well they do in school. 
 
Although Unicef highlights that the country has improved in this area, it still has the greatest disparity between background and results in school of any of the 39 country's included in this part of the report. 
 
Just a small increase on the scale used by the charity to measure someone's social and economic position can lead to an average improvement across the three main subjects of maths, science and reading of 56 score points, the equivalent of almost two years’ schooling. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
6. Mental health 
 
Under the Unicef goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being, France comes fairly high in terms of the percentage of adolescents reporting two or more psychological symptoms, including feeling low, irritable or nervous and having sleeping difficulties, more than once a week, with 27.9 percent of French teens reporting these symptoms. 
 
This compares to 19.9 percent of adolescents in the UK. The country with the highest rates of reported mental health issues in the survey was Italy with 36.5 percent. 
 
However Unicef does advise an element of caution around interpreting self-reported statistics.
 
7. Sexual violence against girls 
 
Unicef also considers gender equality as one of its official goals but this tenth objective had to be left out of the final rankings as a result of a lack of data. 
 
However we do know from their findings that when it comes to sexual violence against girls, France doesn't measure up well in comparison to other rich countries assessed in this category. While sexual violence by adults affects an average of 6 percent of European girls under the age of 15, in France it affects a shocking 12 percent. 
 
This makes France marginally better than the UK where 12.3 percent of girls are affected. Only girls in Luxembourg are worse off, with 13 percent of them affected by the issue. 
 
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