Singapore is the world’s best country for children to grow up in, says NGO report
Singapore jumps 33 places from last year in Save the Children’s End of Childhood Index
By Chen Lin
The report on 175 countries saw Singapore faring well across the eight indicators: Under-five mortality rate, child stunting, out-of-school children and youth, child labour, child marriage, adolescent birth rate, population displaced by conflict, and child homicide rate.
Singapore scored 987 points out of a possible 1,000 in the report’s End of Childhood Index, and performed particularly well in areas such as adolescent birth rate, with only 3.8 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19, as compared the world’s average at 50.4.
Singapore, which finished in top spot ahead of European countries such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, also scored higher than the world’s average for under-five mortality rate.
This is a significant jump in rankings from last year, when Singapore was ranked 33rd. However, Save the Children clarified that there were some inconsistencies with the data sources used in its inaugural report in 2017. Their methodology has since been rectified for greater accuracy, said the NGO.
Three Asian countries made it into the top 20, with South Korea, and Japan ranked eighth and 19th respectively. China was the next highest ranked Asian country at 40th, while Malaysia was the second highest ranked in South-east Asia at 67th.
“This is a stunning result for Singapore, where children enjoy some of the healthiest childhoods possible,” said Mr Hassan Noor Saadi, Save the Children’s Asia Regional Director.
“Singapore is a great place for children to grow up with good access to high quality education and medical care services, while also being one of the safest countries in the world. Threats to childhood that plague other countries – like early marriage, poor access to education and war – simply don’t exist in Singapore, or at extremely low levels.”
While Singapore emerged as the top nation in the report, Mr Michel Anglade, Save the Children’s Campaigns and Advocacy Director for Asia, told TODAY that it did not incorporate indicators such as academic stress and childhood obesity, which are areas of concerns in Singapore. While he acknowledged that these factors could have physical and mental consequences for children, they were not included in the report as there are no surveys to measure the level of stress across all the countries in a consistent manner.
Childhood obesity could potentially be an indicator to further refine the index. Mr Anglade added: “Childhood obesity is definitely a rising problem, both in developing and in developed countries.”
While most Asian countries improved on their scores, stunting and malnutrition remain major problems, said the report. Four countries from the region ranked among the bottom 10 for the percentage of under-five children suffering stunted growth: Laos (44 per cent), Pakistan (45), Papua New Guinea (50), and Timor Leste (50).
Mr Saadi also noted that stunting levels among children under five had “slightly increased” in the Philippines, and that it now affects more than a third of the children. Calling it “particularly worrying, he said that more needs to be done to improve nutrition standards.
Forty per cent of all child labourers – or some 62 million – are in Asia, and South Asia has the highest rate of child marriage of all the regions.
For a second year in a row, Afghan children faced the gravest threats to childhood outside of Africa. The country’s score dipped by 10 points – one of the biggest declines in Asia – mostly due to increases in conflict related displacement and children out of school. It also had a high rate of child mortality, and a very high rate of stunting.
Eight of the bottom 10 countries were in West and Central Africa, with Niger ranked last for the second year running.
The report also found that more than half of all children globally – over 1.2 billion – live in countries plagued by conflict, widespread poverty or discrimination against girls.
End of Childhood Index Rankings 2018 (top 20):
1 Singapore, Slovenia (987 points)
3 Norway, Sweden (985)
5 Finland (984)
6 Ireland, Netherlands (981)
8 Iceland, Italy, South Korea (980)
11 Portugal (979)
12 Cyprus, Germany (978)
14 France, Spain (977)
16 Belgium (976)
17 Australia, Switzerland (975)
19 Israel, Japan, Luxembourg (973)