Saturday, 2 June 2018

Singapore best country for children to grow up in: End of Childhood Report 2018

Republic, Slovenia score well in 8 key indicators for joint No. 1 in NGO rankings
By Lee Wen-Yi, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2018

Singapore is the best country in the world for children to grow up in, according to the second annual End Of Childhood report published by non-governmental organisation Save the Children.

It tied with reigning champion Slovenia as the first out of 175 countries, performing 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.

These indicators represent "life-changing events that signal the disruption of childhood", and demonstrate basic rights that can be quantitatively compared across countries.

Singapore scored 987 out of a possible 1,000. Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Finland rounded off the top five.

The report, released in the lead-up to International Children's Day yesterday, improved on last year's by using national estimates rather than solely relying on United Nations' numbers, making the ranking more accurate, according to Save the Children.

"This is a stunning result for Singapore, where children enjoy some of the healthiest childhoods possible," said Save the Children's Asia regional director Hassan Noor Saadi.

"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."​

Asian countries occupied three of the top 20 spots, with South Korea ranking eighth and Japan 19th. However, they also comprised four of the bottom 10 spots in terms of child stunting.

Child labour and child marriage also remain prolific problems in Asia, which is home to 40 per cent of all child labourers and has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, the report said.

Within Asia, children in the Philippines and Afghanistan were found to face deteriorating childhoods. Afghanistan - affected by "harrowing violence, poverty and disadvantage" - fell from 152nd place to 160th, while the Philippines fell from 96th place to 104th due to increased stunting levels and poor nutrition standards.

Compared with last year, the overall situation for children has improved for 95 of the 175 countries.

However, the world still has a long way to go in addressing issues facing children. More than half of all children - over 1.2 billion - live in countries mired in conflict, poverty or gender discrimination, while almost 153 million children live in 20 countries that are affected by all three.

Countries affected by armed conflict have incidences of child labour 77 per cent higher than the global average and make girls more vulnerable to child marriage, the report added.

Even global powerhouses had scores disproportionate to their economic development.

"The United States, Russia and China may well be the three most powerful countries in the world - in terms of their combined economic, military and technological strength and global influence - but all three badly trail most of Western Europe in helping children reach their full potential," the report said.

These countries stand at 36th, 37th and 40th respectively.

Singapore should not lose sense of reality, perspective while tackling social problems: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Ranking reflects success in giving kids best start in life, he says nation's top spot in report is a reminder that it has not done badly at all
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 4 Jun 2018

Singapore's ranking as the joint best country for children to grow up in reflects its success in "giving every child, regardless of background, the best possible start in life", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

In a Facebook post, he said he was happy to read about the Republic's top rank - tied with Slovenia - in a recent report by non-governmental organisation Save the Children.

The report surveyed 175 countries across 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.

"Each of these harrowing gauges is considered a 'childhood ender'," said PM Lee. "We are fortunate that these grave threats to children are rare or do not exist in Singapore."

Although Singapore frets about social inequality and should never cease striving against it, "this report is a timely reminder that we have not done badly at all".

"While tackling our social problems, let us not lose our sense of reality and perspective," he said.

The issue of inequality featured prominently in the debate on the President's Address last month, with various ministers, including PM Lee, speaking on the matter.

PM Lee noted in his speech that social networks are natural structures in society which form when people interact, but they must remain open and permeable. If they close up, he warned, social mobility will be frustrated and the results would be disastrous for the country.

Others, like Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, described tackling inequality as a national priority and raised the spectre of a poison creeping into Singapore society - social stratification. These discussions followed President Halimah Yacob's speech at Parliament's reopening, in which she highlighted inequality as a problem to be dealt with "vigorously". The address was drafted by the fourth-generation ministers.

In a separate Facebook post last night, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said Singapore's ranking in the survey "is a result of peace and stability, law and order, access to education and early childhood education, good nutrition and general upliftment across society, which has kept extreme child deprivation well at bay".

But Singapore's work to tackle child abuse continues. "We must continue to strengthen our community networks who help keep an eye out for telltale signs of violence or ill treatment of children," he said, citing, among others, childcare centres and neighbours. He also called for continued support for child protection officers, whose work in investigating cases of child abuse is "emotional and challenging".

2018 End of Childhood Report: Save the Children
1.2 Billion Childhoods Threatened by Conflict, Poverty, Gender Discrimination, New Save the Children Report Reveals

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