Too many children in the world’s richest countries lack basic math and reading skills, and suffer from poor mental well-being and obesity, according to a UNICEF report released Thursday.
The report ranks 41 countries from the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on children’s health, skills and happiness.
Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway top the leaderboard, while Bulgaria, Chile, and the United States are ranked as the worst places to be a child among high-income countries.
According to UNICEF, about 20% of children do not have great satisfaction with life in most rich countries.
Turkey fares worse, with only 53 percent of children having high life satisfaction, followed by Japan and Great Britain.
Lithuania has the highest teen suicide rate, followed by New Zealand and Estonia.
In terms of physical health, around one in three children is obese or overweight, and the rates in southern Europe are rising sharply.
About 40 percent of children in rich countries lack basic reading and math skills by age 15, and those in Bulgaria, Romania and Chile are the least competent, UNICEF said.
While the report used data from before the coronavirus pandemic, it warned that the crisis posed a substantial threat to children’s well-being.
“Many of the richest countries in the world, which have the resources they need to provide a good childhood for all, are failing children,” said Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF Innocenti.
“Unless governments take swift and decisive action to protect the well-being of children as part of their responses to the pandemic, we can continue to expect soaring rates of child poverty, deterioration in mental and physical health, and growing division of skills among children, ”added Olsson.