Ireland among top 10 best places in the world to be a child - Unicef Report

Dublin, 10 April 2013 - Ireland is the 10th best place in the world to be a child according to a UNICEF league table for child well-being in industrialised countries. The report also shows a decade of steady progress for the nation’s children. UNICEF’s “Report Card 11 - Child well-being in rich countries”, which is the culmination of research spanning ten years (2001-2010), was launched in Dublin by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald as part of Ireland’s Presidency of the EU.

The Report Card 11 results for Ireland include:

  • 10th place overall for child well-being among the 29 OECD countries. The first decade of the 2000s saw a halving of low family affluence and an increase in the number of children participating in further education. 86% of children in Ireland are happy with their lives.
  • Ireland has a relatively low child poverty rate of 8.5% but those who do fall below the poverty line fall harder than in other countries, giving Ireland one of the largest child poverty gaps.
  • Significant decline in children smoking and more modest declines in drinking and teenage pregnancies.
  • Ireland has the highest rate of children exercising with almost 1 in 3 children exercising for at least an hour a day. 70% of children eat breakfast every day.
  • A rise in the number of children who are overweight puts Ireland ahead of the UK, Germany and France. Over 15% of children in Ireland are overweight by BMI.
  • The number of 15-19 year olds not in education, employment or training puts Ireland at bottom of table.
  • One of only 5 countries to experience an increase bullying during the 2000s. One quarter of children would not label classmates as being kind.
  • Children in Ireland find it easiest to talk to their mothers (83%) followed by fathers (68%).

Peter Power, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland
said: “UNICEF’s Report Card 11 shows huge progress has been made in this country across many areas of children’s lives over the last ten years. We should credit today’s young people with making smarter decisions when it comes to their health and ensure that the Government continues to make the decisions for children, particularly early in life when it can make the most difference.

“It’s vital we don’t forget the children who are behind these statistics who have always been below the poverty line and continue to fall. We are in danger of leaving our most vulnerable groups of children behind. There are young people finishing school faced with an uncertain future who need more options for further education and training. The growing levels of bullying are a warning to our society to do more to tackle a problem which has devastating and long-lasting effects. When we ask young people what is the defining issue for their generation, they tell us that mental health services need to be strengthened.

“UNICEF will continue to support industrialised countries’ efforts to combat poverty and promote the well-being of all children. This research shows that the right policy, regardless of the economic environment, can make lasting positive changes to children’s lives and give every child the right start to ensure that they grow up to fulfil their potential.

Helping launch the report, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, said: “I’m delighted to join with UNICEF today in launching this considerable piece of global research. I am also very happy with the finding that Ireland is now recognised as one of the top places in the world to be a child.

“I welcome in particular the findings relating to Ireland having the highest rate of children exercising daily in the industrialised world significant decline in children smoking and more modest declines in drinking and teenage pregnancies.

The Minister stated that “in providing international comparisons this report further contributes to the wealth of data now emerging on children lives and experiences.

The Minister added “I’m glad to see that this report underlines the importance of early intervention to child well-being. This is a key objective of my Department and features in our work in developing Ireland first-ever Early Year Strategy, our investment in area-based approaches to early intervention and child poverty; and the ongoing development of the new Child and Family Support Agency.

“I congratulate UNICEF on allowing young people’s voices to be centre stage when it comes to matters which affect their lives.”

Globally, Report Card 11 shows a decade of progress with the Netherlands retaining its position at number one, followed by four more Nordic countries - Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The report does not show a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being.

The full Report Card and a video featuring young people reflecting on their experiences of growing up in Ireland is available at



Further Information: Claire McKeever, UNICEF, / +353 86 302 7791

Note to Editor: Report Card 11 will be launched with the Minister of Children and Youth Affairs in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham at 9am on Wednesday 10 April with a Q&A for journalists. A photo call will take place at 8.45am. Peter Power, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland is available for interview.

A summary of the Irish data is attached. The video of the youth panel can be viewed here

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