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Why is the UK a bad place for mothers?


Mother's Index, Save the Children, UK 24th placeAt 24th in the annual Mothers’ Index, the UK needs to improve.

In the latest edition of the Mothers’ Index, part of Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report, the UK ranks a rather underwhelming 24th.

As Kathryn Bolles, director of health and nutrition for Save the Children has said, this shows the UK “underperforming as one of the wealthiest countries in the world”.

The index is compiled based on five indicators: risk of maternal death, under-five mortality rates, expected years of formal education, gross national income per capita and proportion of women in national government.

The UK’s weakest score is on the last of these measures, with just 23 per cent of parliamentary seats occupied by women (based on pre-election figures).

Explaining why this factor is so important, Bolles said having more women in positions of power is known to correlate with higher levels of maternal wellbeing, often meaning greater prioritisation of areas such as education and healthcare.

Researchers also highlighted the UK’s relatively high levels of health risk during pregnancy, pointing to factors including obesity, social deprivation, multiple pregnancies and poor access to healthcare, particularly in some ethnic minority communities.

Child mortality in the UK is also high when compared to similarly developed nations. A child born in the UK is more than twice as likely to die before age five, than if it were born in Iceland or Luxembourg, for instance.

Norway tops the index, with consistently strong performance across all five indicators. Also within the top 10 are Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Australia and Belgium.

The USA, meanwhile, ranks even lower than the UK, coming 33rd among the 179 countries listed. This is due to a high risk of maternal death, high child mortality rate, and an even lower proportion of women in parliament than the UK.

Overall, the report focuses on highlighting the high risks faced by mothers and children in urban areas around the world, and huge differences in survival rates between rich and poor.

In most countries, it says, the poorest urban children are at least twice as likely to die before age five compared to their counterparts at the opposite end of the wealth spectrum.

Save the Children’s key recommendations emphasise the need for ongoing projects to commit to closing these inequities, ensuring all mothers and children benefit from progress.

Following the recent election results, which mean women now account for 29 per cent of MPs, the UK can expect to improve its performance on at least one measure of the Mothers’ Index next time around.

Let’s hope this slightly more diverse parliament, which also includes more MPs from ethnic minorities and fewer from privately educated backgrounds, translates into improved prospects for women and children in other areas too.

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