The UK is among the least family-friendly countries in Europe, according to a recent study from the UN children’s charity (UNICEF).
The report, which was carried out as part of UNICEF’s Early Moments Matter campaign, took data from 2016 for OECD and EU countries on national policies for families.
It specifically looked at different rates of paid parental leave offered by each country, and the use and accessibility of childcare services from 0-6 years old (school age).
UK parents were among the most likely to blame cost for not using childcare.
Unicef policy and advocacy head Liam Sollis said the research highlighted how working parents in the UK faced major challenges balancing work and their care-giving responsibilities.
Estonia, Sweden, Norway and Iceland were the highest ranked countries. Sweden and Norway, at the top of the league for family friendliness overall, pay new mothers the equivalent of 35 and 45 weeks fully paid.
Estonia ranked top of the table for fully paid maternity leave, offering up to 85 weeks, which was followed by Hungary with 72 weeks, and Bulgaria on 65 weeks.
Switzerland ranked the worst for families, followed by Greece, Cyprus and the United Kingdom.
But the report also noted that no single country ranked consistently high on all indicators studied, which “suggests there is room for improvement, even among the more family-friendly countries”.
The United States would rank lowest of all
Outside Europe, the US was the only country that didn’t have maternity leave offered at a national level. In fact, the US didn’t offer any parental leave at a national level, including paternity leave.
If The US was in the table, it would rank at the bottom, such is the disparity between different states and their paternity leave policies. An unnamed UNICEF analyst commentated, ‘for a developed nation and a global superpower, the domestic policies are deplorable.’
Out of all 41 OECD and EU countries studied in the report, there were nine that didn’t offer paternity leave at all.
Unicef said family-friendly policies strengthened the bond between parents and their children, which was key to the development of families and society.
And it said new parents should be offered six months’ paid leave and affordable quality childcare.
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