Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day (to some anyway)

Topping the list as the best place to be a mother is Sweden with the rest of the Scandinavian countries not far behind (ahhh life in a Social Democratic Country). The Countries from sub-saharan Africa dominate the lower tier. The United States ranks 27th. When my friend, a Portland mother to be (for the second time) sent these statistics to me it took a while to absorb them. They are shocking on two levels, that the division between the top and the bottom is so severe and secondly, that the United States fares so poorly. Below are some excerpts from the report and the website.

The gap in availability of maternal and child health services is especially striking when comparing Sweden, at the top of the list, and Niger, at the bottom. Skilled health personnel are present at virtually every birth in Sweden, while only 33 percent of births are attended in Niger. A typical Swedish woman has almost 17 years of formal education and will live to be 83. Meanwhile, 72 percent of Swedish women use some modern method of contraception, and only 1 in 185 will lose a child before his or her fifth birthday. In stark contrast, in Niger, a typical woman has less than three years of education and the life expectancy of a girl born today is only 45. Only 4 percent of Nigerian women use modern contraception, and 1 child in 4 never sees a fifth birthday. At this rate, every mother is likely to suffer the loss of a child during her lifetime.

Zeroing in on the children's well-being portion of the Mothers' Index, Italy finishes first and Niger finishes last out of 168 countries. While nearly every Italian child ─ girl and boy alike ─ enjoys good health and education, children in Niger face a 1 in 4 risk of dying before age 5. In Niger, 44 percent of children are malnourished, and less than half of children are enrolled in primary school.

Country Comparisons:

The Mothers' Index presents individual country comparisons for poor countries that are especially startling when one considers the human suffering behind the statistics:

  • 1 child in 4 does not reach his or her fifth birthday in Afghanistan, Angola, Niger and Sierra Leone. In Sweden, only 1 child in 333 dies before age 5.

  • Fewer than 15 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel in Afghanistan and Chad; 96 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel in Sri Lanka.
    Over the course of her lifetime, 1 woman in 8 will die in pregnancy or childbirth in Afghanistan. Compare that to 1 in more than 47,000 in Ireland.

  • A typical woman in Angola, Dijbouti and Niger has less than four years of schooling versus a typical woman in Australia or New Zealand who receives over 20 years of formal education.
  • A girl born in Swaziland will not live to see her 30th birthday. Compare that to a girl born in Japan who will live to 86 years old.

Why doesn’t the United States do better in the rankings? The United States ranked 27th this year based on several factors:

● One of the key indicators used to calculate well-being for mothers is lifetime risk of maternal mortality. The United States’ rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 4,800 - one of the highest in the developed world. Thirty-five out of 43 countries performed better than the United States on this indicator, including nearly all the Western, Northern and Southern European countries and Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.

● Similarly, the United States did not do as well as many other countries with regard to under-5 mortality. The U.S. under-5 mortality rate is 8 per 1,000 births - up from 7 in last year’s Index. Twenty-nine countries performed better than the U.S. on this indicator.

● Only 61 percent of children in the United States are enrolled in preschool - making it the ninth lowest country in the developed world on this indicator.

● Next to Australia, the United States has the least generous maternity leave policies of any wealthy nation.

● The United States is also lagging behind with regard to the political status of women. Only 17 percent of seats in the U.S.Congress are held by women, compared to 47 percent in Sweden and 42 percent in Finland. Why is Sweden number one? Sweden performed as well as or better than other countries in the rankings on all the indicators. It has the highest ratio of female-to male earned income, the highest percentage of women with seats in the national government and - along with Iceland - the lowest under-5 mortality rate in the world.


Daddydan said...

Brazil has been a much better place to have kids than the US. My wife has four months paid maternity leave here, which will soon go up to six. In the US, as you noted. the situation would be drastically different, for the worse.

That is what I call pathetic, but not suprising in a country where the worker is an expendable entity.

Anonymous said...

"typical woman in Australia or New Zealand who receives over 20 years of formal education"
Sorry, as an Australian, I dont believe this - what is this statement based on

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Putsy. As a mother who works full time, I find the Family Medical Leave Act (12 weeks unpaid leave, unless the employer creates a different policy. In my case, I am able to take pay for whatever sick/vacation time I have accumulated in my bank--which is definitely not 12 weeks) completely inadequate in a country that espouses family values. Also, with the economy in such despair, it is impossible to support a family with multiple children without two incomes (and even then....). Yet we offer little to no child care subsidies for working moms (I pay $60/per day/per child). It's outrageous.

On a lighter note, those of you interested in some social/political action on behalf of these issues in the US, check out: