The 16 best countries in the world for children

In honour of Children’s Day on May 31, international NGO Save the Children has released its “End of Childhood Index 2017.”

The ranking highlights the best and worst places for kids to grow up across 172 countries, taking into account things like mortality rates, child-labour laws, threats of violence, and rates of disease.

The best places for kids, the report finds, provide ample access to healthcare, education, and social support. In short, they let kids be kids.

“We believe every child deserves a healthy start, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm,” Richard Bland,

Here are the top 16 countries, ranked from least-threatening to childhood to most-threatening.

1. Norway — 985

1. Slovenia — 985

3. Finland — 983

4. Netherlands — 982

4. Sweden — 982

6. Portugal — 981

7. Ireland — 980

8. Iceland — 979

8. Italy — 979

10. Belgium — 978

10. Cyprus — 978

10. Germany — 978

10. Republic of Korea — 978

14. France — 976

14. Spain — 974

16. Japan — 974

Save the Children arrived at its rankings by relying on eight indicators of so-called “Childhood Enders.” One Ender is childhood marriage, which the organisation measured by the percentage of children in a given country who were currently married. The “Child is a victim of extreme violence” Ender was determined by both the youth homicide rate and the percentage of children forcibly displaced by conflict.

All told, childhood is “ending” for nearly 700 million kids around the world, Save the Children found.

Countries that scored the lowest on these eight Enders were deemed the best places for kids to grow up. The US came in 36th place, right below Boznia & Herzegovina and right above Russia. Bland says the mediocre performance is due mainly to infant mortality, as the US rate is one of the highest among industrialized countries.

Countries can extend childhood for their youngest citizens by supporting programs that work to prevent deaths due to preventable disease, such as malaria or influenza, and also by offering early-education after-school programs, Bland says. A strong body of evidence finds education offers kids a host of benefits, many unrelated to academics.

“This report is our effort to remind countries and policymakers that these childhood enders are robbing children of their ability to have a future,” Bland says.

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