Germany, your children

A comprehensive UNICEF report on the welfare of children in industrialized countries paints a sobering picture of the situation in Germany. Only in Hungary, Australia and Poland is the proportion of unemployed parents even higher than in Germany, and the health of many German young people is also at risk: In no other country surveyed do more young people smoke. Germany is only mediocre when it comes to creating reliable living environments for the young generation.

Unicef has for the first time coherently examined the key aspects of child development in 21 industrialized countries in six dimensions: Material situation, health, education, relationships with parents and peers, lifestyles and risks, and children and adolescents' own assessments. Germany ranks only 11th overall. The Netherlands tops the Unicef table as the most child-friendly country, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Great Britain and the USA fare particularly badly. Smoking, drugs, alcohol Particularly worrying is the risky behavior of German youths. When it comes to smoking, alcohol and cannabis consumption, as well as sexual behavior, Germany ranks second to last, ahead of Great Britain. The main reason for these poor scores is smoking as a health risk: Comparing data from a total of 29 industrialized countries, including Russia, nowhere are there as many smokers as in Germany. In Germany, only 70 percent of young people use a condom; in Catholic Spain, the figure is 90 percent. Teenage pregnancies in Germany are mainly in Bremen and Berlin. With 16 pregnancies per 1.000 girls, the two city-states are in the bottom third, while Baden-Wurttemberg does particularly well. There, fewer than eight girls between 15 and 19 become pregnant. Germany as a whole is in the middle of the pack in terms of early pregnancies (12th place).Germany ranks last in how often parents and children talk to each other. Only slightly more than 40 percent of German 15-year-olds said that their parents simply talk to them several times a week. In Hungary, nearly 90 percent of adolescents said they regularly talk to their parents; in Italy, over 85 percent. Good relationship with peers German young people rate their relationships with peers as good. (5th place). As elsewhere, only in Finland have fewer than 30 percent of the young people surveyed been involved in violent altercations in the past twelve months (second place).Germany also performs well in terms of attendance at secondary schools (3rd place) and the transition between school and work (7th place). Nevertheless, the students' own assessment of the future is shockingly poor. More than 30 percent of 15-year-old Germans believe that they will only have a low-skilled job later in life. In this respect, Germany ranks only 20th out of 25 industrialized countries.

Large differences between federal states Professor Hans Bertram of the Humboldt University in Berlin has analyzed the study for Germany in more detail. The limited data available highlights a huge disparity between the states, Bertram said. In the states at the bottom of the ranking – Bremen, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin – the negative developments for children are accumulating. Bertram thinks it is questionable whether these states are able on their own to improve living conditions for children in such a way that girls and boys who grow up in Bremen, for example, have the same opportunities as children in other German states.

Overall concept missing In Germany, political measures and decisions for families and children often had little effect because they were not coordinated and not planned and implemented in a targeted manner, according to the analysis by Bertram. At the federal, state and local levels, politics is often still conducted along the logic and competence of individual institutions. There is a lack of an overall concept that includes the economic situation of families, the infrastructure for reliable living environments for children and the reorganization of the division of tasks between families and institutions such as schools, kindergartens or youth welfare offices. The northern European countries, on the other hand, which occupy the top positions in the international comparison, have succeeded in positively influencing the situation of children and families with such a "policy mix" that integrates and bundles comprehensive measures for families.

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