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Monday 20.11.2017 | Name days: Anda, Andīna
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Welfare level of Latvian children – second lowest among EU and OECD countries

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Аuthor: Edijs Pālens/LETAChildren and young people in Latvia do not have the same level of welfare and quality of life children from the EU and OECD countries have, said in the “Child welfare in rich countries” edition of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) research centre.

The level of welfare of Latvian children in the second lowest among EU countries and OECD countries.

Child and youth quality of life was researched in five areas: material welfare, health and safety, education, behaviour and risks, as well as residence and environment quality.

Results show that the number of deaths of children, newborns and young people is one of the highest among developed countries (7.6 newborn deaths per 1000 births; 34.7 child and young people’s deaths of 100 000 children of the age of 1 to 19).

Child residence quality is one of the lowest in comparison to rich countries: 22.4% of all families with children have problems with the quality of their homes. There are also environmental quality problems: air pollution is one of the highest in Europe after Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria. The general safety is also a reason for concern. Latvia’s murder rate is one of the highest among EU and OECD countries (4.8 murders per 100 000 residents); higher than that of Lithuania, Estonia and USA.

Nearly half of students experience violence at school: 46% of children of the age of 11, 13 and 15 say they suffer from violence and threats from their peers. The level of smoking in Latvia is the highest among all countries involved in the survey (13.4% children of the age of 11, 13 and 15 smoke). Alcohol consumption is also popular (25% of children of the age of 11, 13 and 15 say they have been drunk at least twice). The number of young mothers is also high: 16 of every 1000 girls of the age of 15 to 19.

Nevertheless, the survey also reveals some positive sides as well. Latvia is on relatively high position in terms of education and employment: 89% of young people continue to study higher education after receiving general education (9th place among 29 countries). 92% of young people age 15 to 19 are employed, study or have work practice (22nd place). In terms of the quality of education and achievements, Latvian young people, age 15, are only on the 26th place among 29 countries, which shows a relatively low competitiveness on an international level.

The highest child and youth welfare level is noted in the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Estonia is on the 23rd place, while Poland is on the 21st.

“Even though it seems that a country’s position depends on the government income and GDP, the report shows that a country’s level of income is not closely linked to the child welfare level. In Slovenia, for example, the child welfare level is higher than that of Canada. The Czech Republic’s child welfare level is higher than that of Austria, and Portugal’s welfare level is higher than that of USA”, – notes UNICEF research centre’s social and economic policy analyst Ilze Plavgo.

As the director of UNICEF research centre Gordon Alexander said, even though a child’s present and future are affected by a country’s economic conditions, this survey shows that a country’s social and economic policy is just as important. Child and youth welfare level is directly affected by the reduction of state expenses in social areas and the reduction of social benefits. The scale of the impact of the financial and economic crisis on children and young people depends not just on the crisis itself, but on the political decisions made by governments as well.

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