Norway best in world for mothers

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A new international survey gives entirely new meaning to Norway’s standing as a “motherland.” It’s now ranked as the best place in the world to be a mother, thanks to generous state support and child care benefits.

Norway in effect pays women to have children, thanks to lump sum grants given to mothers for every child born. Monthly child care benefits are also paid out every month, regardless of household income, and working women in Norway can take nearly a year of maternity leave at full pay. Parents also are entitled to as many as 20 days off per year to care for a sick child, also at full pay, health care is provided by the state, and day care centers are heavily subsidized.

This has all helped propel Norway to the number-one spot in an international survey called “State of the World’s mothers,” reports newspaper Dagsavisen. The survey, due for release on Tuesday, was conducted by the international organization “Save the Children” (called Redd Barna in Norway). 

It evaluated conditions for mothers in 160 countries around the world, regarding health care, nutrition, education and the economic and political situation in each. In Norway, the generous leave allowed at full pay and state-supported day care centers were singled out as especially important.

Ranked second behind Norway was Australia, followed by Iceland, Sweden and Denmark. Next came New Zealand, in sixth place, Finland in seventh and other European countries including the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

The worst country in the world for mothers, according to the study, is Afghanistan, where having a child was called “a risky venture” that many don’t survive. Next-worst was Niger, followed by Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Yemen. Then came the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea.

In the 10 countries at the bottom of the list, 60 percent of all births occur with no qualified health care personnel present. One of every 23 women dies in connection with her pregnancy, one of every six children dies before reaching the age of five and one of every three children suffers from malnutrition.

Many Norwegians continue to demand even better benefits and complaints are common. Some leaders have worried the country’s current welfare system is not sustainable. One appreciative mother told Dagsavisen, though, that she realizes her challenges are small compared to those faced by mothers in the rest of the world.

“Very much is already arranged and made right when you have children in Norway,” said Kristin Engh Førde, who has two children aged two and five. “That’s not true in many places, so we’re lucky.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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