Countries Where Children Have the Best Opportunities

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5. Denmark
> Pct. reporting children can thrive: 90%
> GDP per capita: $37,794
> Population: 5.6 million

Ninety percent of Danish respondents to Gallup’s survey agreed that children in their country had daily opportunities to thrive. One contributing factor that allows parents to help their children develop may be the country’s generous parental leave program. New mothers and fathers can expect a full year of paid leave in total. In addition, comprehensive state-funded daycare and childcare programs help improve the well-being of children and also ease the parents’ transitions back to the workforce. Educational institutions are also very well funded in Denmark. The country spent 7.9% of its GDP on education in 2010, more than all but two countries reviewed.

ALSO READ: The Most Educated Countries in the World

4. Finland
> Pct. reporting children can thrive: 92%
> GDP per capita: $35,863
> Population: 5.5 million

Finland’s school system has been often touted as one of the world’s best. However, it has recently dropped in international student achievement rankings. Still, as of 2010, Finnish adults were among the most likely people in all developed countries to have a tertiary education, and the country reported similarly impressive secondary school graduation rates. Also, the OECD praised Finland for reducing disparities in student achievement, as well as for its early detection of struggling students. Finns surveyed by Gallup also stated that children had ample opportunities to learn and grow, while 80% felt children were treated well — higher than in most nations. Yet the country has had to deal with a slumping economy. According to IMF figures from October 2013, the nation’s economy shrank by 0.8% in 2012 and an estimated 0.6% last year.

3. Norway
> Pct. reporting children can thrive: 93% (tied-2nd most)
> GDP per capita: $55,398
> Population: 5.1 million

Norway is among the wealthiest countries in the world, with a GDP of $55,398 per capita as of 2013. Additionally, the country’s economy was not as hard-hit as many other nations in Europe. The IMF estimated last October that Norway’s economy would grow 1.6% in 2013. While this growth rate may not be impressive, it is considerably better than European countries. In addition to a stable economy and a massive government oil fund, Norway residents are quite happy. Just over 1% of the population described itself as suffering in 2012, among the lowest percentages in the world. Additionally, most Norwegians believed the country’s children had opportunities to learn and grow, and that it is safe to walk alone at night there. According to UNICEF, Norway is the second best country for child well-being, behind only the Netherlands.

ALSO READ: The Best (and Worst) Countries to Grow Old

2. Luxembourg
> Pct. reporting children can thrive: 93% (tied-2nd most)
> GDP per capita: $77,935
> Population: 500,000

Luxembourg is one of the best places in the world for children to live, according to its residents. Not only did 93% say kids had the opportunity to learn and grow every day, but also 88% said they believed children were treated with dignity and respect, trailing only Switzerland in both measures. Although the country’s PISA scores — which compare student achievement against a large number of countries — were hardly spectacular, more than 35% of adults had a tertiary degree as of 2010, a figure that nearly doubled during the preceding decade. Additionally, Luxembourg’s economy is very strong by some measures. Government debt is fairly limited, while GDP per capita was estimated at nearly $78,000 in 2013, second-highest in the world behind Qatar.

1. Switzerland
> Pct. reporting children can thrive: 95%
> GDP per capita: $45,999
> Population: 8.1 million

As many as 95% of Swiss residents believed children in their country had opportunities for success, and 92% believed children were treated well, both more than in any other nation reviewed by Gallup. According to a UNICEF report released last year, Switzerland was also one of just a handful of countries where the childhood obesity rate was less than 10%. Additionally, teenage pregnancy rates in Switzerland were lower than all 29 developed nations considered by UNICEF. Swiss children were also well-educated, achieving above OECD average scores in each of three categories — math, reading and science– reviewed in the most recent PISA assessment.

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