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UNICEF study


Switzerland's youth faring well overall


Children play in the fountain in front of Switzerland's parliament building (Keystone)

Children play in the fountain in front of Switzerland's parliament building

(Keystone)

Swiss kids generally have good lives although one in ten faces poverty, says a study of 29 industrialised countries just released by Geneva-based UNICEF. Switzerland placed eighth in the rankings indicating child wellbeing and development.

The study examined and averaged five areas of influence – housing, material prosperity, health and safety, risk level and development – in determining how well children were doing in each country. The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Germany topped the rankings.

Switzerland ranked ninth in material prosperity, 11th in health and safety, 11th in risk level, 16th in education and first in terms of housing and the environment. It improved three overall ranks from 2001, when it placed 11th in the same study.

Eighty-seven per cent of Swiss children polled said they were satisfied with their lives, compared with 95 per cent in the top-performing Netherlands.

At the bottom end of the list were the United States (26th), Lithuania, Latvia and Romania. Several southern European countries also performed poorly, with Spain falling from fifth to 19th place in a span of ten years and Italy and Greece placing 22nd and 25th, respectively.

“The effects of the crisis in Europe have seriously preoccupied us,” said Chris de Neubourg of UNICEF’s centre for research, presenting the report.

Challenges remain

The UNICEF study showed that one in ten Swiss children lives in poverty, and its authors stated that a country’s overall wealth is not a good indicator of how its most vulnerable children live.

"In a rich country, the situation of the children is not automatically better than in a poorer one," they noted, adding that children affected by poverty tend to suffer their whole lives as a result.

Switzerland’s low ranking in education is due to the comparatively low number of children enrolled in early-childhood education before the start of compulsory schooling. However, the country ranked fourth in the subcategory of academic success.

In the area of health, Swiss children performed well because of a low teen pregnancy rate and healthy body weights among youth. However, they did worse when it came to physical activity levels and cannabis consumption, coming near last in both categories.

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