Euronews.com: Switzerland and the UK are 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).
Sweden, Norway and Iceland topped the table for having the most family-friendly policies among the countries that could supply complete data sets.
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”.
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 was, again, bottom of the table for maternity leave, offering mothers just eight weeks of paid leave.
Ireland has nice weeks offered and the UK marginally better with 12 weeks.
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.
Out of all 41 OECD and EU countries studied in the report, there were nine that didn’t offer paternity leave at all.
They were: United States, New Zealand, Israel, Canada, Switzerland, Cyprus, Ireland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, Japan ranked the best for paternity leave, offering fathers around 30 weeks.
In Europe, Portugal, Sweden and Luxembourg were marked top for fathers.
But in countries that offered favourable paternity leave, the report found that men were not taking advantage of it.
In Japan, for example, just one in 20 fathers took paid leave in 2017.
The report also found that children below the age of three were more likely to be taken to childcare centres in countries where less maternity leave was offered but longer leave was reserved for fathers.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore called on governments to provide better support for parents to look after their children in their early years.
She said, “There is no time more critical to children’s brain development – and therefore their futures – than the earliest years of life.”