10 Apr 2013

UK children face ‘bleaker future’, Unicef report says

Britain is ranked as one of the bottom countries in the developed world for teenage pregnancy, youth unemployment and involvement in further education, in a new report from Unicef.

Overall the UK was ranked 16th out of the world’s 29 richest countries, meaning it fell behind most of its European neighbours, including Ireland, Slovenia, France and Germany, in terms of child prospects.

The ‘report card’ warned that the government’s austerity agenda, which it said had seen £300m cut from services for young people, was having a negative effect.

“With the UK ranking near the bottom of the league table on teenage pregnancy and young people not in education, employment or training, we know that many are facing a bleaker future,” said Anita Tiessen, Unicef UK’s deputy executive director of communications and programmes.

“The government needs to acknowledge this and act now. While children and young people will be the first to bear the brunt if we fail to safeguard their well-being, over time society as a whole will pay the price.”

The further education enrolment rate exceeds 80 per cent in all of the more populous developed countries except the United
Unicef report card

In the last Unicef report card, in 2007, Britain was ranked in bottom place overall out of the world’s 21 richest nations, meaning there has been an improvement.

Bottom marks for education

The report analyses the well-being of country’s children based on five main principles: material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviours and risks, and housing and environment. Most of the statistics were based on the latest available data, from between 2009 and 2010.

In the education category, which covers participation and achievement, the UK was 24th out of 29 countries. This was due to the UK coming bottom for participation in further education.

The report said: “The further education enrolment rate exceeds 80 per cent in all of the more populous developed countries except the United

“The United Kingdom is the only developed country in which the further education participation rate falls below 75 per cent; this may be the result
of an emphasis on academic qualifications combined with a diverse system of vocational qualifications which have not yet succeeded in achieving
either ‘parity of esteem’ or an established value in employment markets.”

The UK also came 25th for the number of children between 15 and 19 not in education, employment or training (NEET). The UK’s NEET rate was just under 10 per cent, and was worse in Romania and the economically struggling countries of Ireland, Italy and Spain.

Teenage preganancy

The UK was also ranked 27th out of 29 for teenage pregnancy – with only Romania and the United States ranked worse. The UK, according to the report, recorded 29 births per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Switzerland, the Netherlands and Slovenia topped the table with five or less births.

Teenage consumption of alcohol and cannabis were also areas in which the UK performed poorly, coming in 23rd and 21st respectively.

The report said around 19 per cent of children aged 11, 13 and 15 reported having been drunk at least twice, and 17 per cent reported having used cannabis in the previous 12 months.

The three top countries for child well-being, in order, were Netherlands, Norway and Iceland. The worst country was reported as Romania, followed by Latvia, Lithuania and the United States.