According to the most recent report from Save the Children, Norway is the best country in which to be a mother. The United States ranks 28th out of 43 countries in the developed world. This is a poor showing.
Norway has the highest ration of female-to-male earned income. Working mothers earn 77% of what men make, as contrasted with 62% in the U.S.
Norway has one of the most generous maternity leave policies in the developed world. Norwegian parents have 29 weeks of parental leave which either the mother, the father or both can use. By contrast, The United States’ FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take 12 weeks leave in a 12-month period—UNPAID.
Norway has one of the lowest maternal and under-5 mortality rates, at 4 per 1000 live births. In the U.S., the rate is 8 per 1000, twice as high.
In Norway, the lifetime risk of maternal mortality is 1 in 7700. In the U.S., your risk factor is 1 in 4800, close to double the risk.
Norway has the highest contraceptive prevalence rate, at 82%. The U.S. rate is 68%. 11 countries do better than this.
Norway has a high percentage of women participating in national government, with 40% holding seats. 4 countries have the same or better percentage. The United States has 17%. We are on a par with Albania, the Czech Republic and Greece. 31 countries have a higher percentage of women in national government than the U.S. Wonder why we aren’t getting the family- and child-friendly policies we dream of?
The United States ranks 28th out of 43 countries in the developed world in the Mother’s Index Rank, behind Croatia, Austria and Latvia. The United States ranked 28th this year based on several factors: a lifetime risk of maternal death of 1 in 4800—one of the highest in the developed world, and is double Norway’s risk factor. 35 out of 43 developed countries performed better than the U.S. on this indicator. A woman in the U.S. is more than 5 times as likely as a woman in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece or Italy to die from pregnancy-related causes in her lifetime, and her risk of maternal death is nearly 10-fold that of a woman in Ireland.
The ten best countries for mothers are Norway, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The highest-ranking countries attain very high scores for mothers’ and children’s health, educational and economic status.
For a look at how mothers fare in the developing world, let’s take a look at the ten worst places to be a mother (worst first): Afghanistan, Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, DR Congo, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea, And Equatorial Guinea. Only 14% of births are attended in Afghanistan (in the developed world, virtually all births are attended). In Afghanistan, a typical woman has just over 4 years of education and will live to be only 44 (In Norway, a woman may expect to live to age 83 and have 18 years of education). 16% of women are using modern contraception, and more than 1 child in 4 dies before his or her fifth birthday. At this rate, every mother in Afghanistan is likely to suffer the loss of a child.
The countries were ranked according to both a Women’s Index and a Children’s Index. In the Women’s Index are the following categories:
1. Lifetime risk of maternal death
2. Percent of women using modern contraception
3. Female life expectancy at birth (in years)
4. Expected number of years of formal schooling for females
5. Maternity leave benefit (for both length and % of wages paid)
6. Ratio of estimated female to male earned income
7. Participation of women in national government (% seats held by women)
The Children’s Index includes:
1. Under-5 mortality rate
2. Gross pre-primary enrollment ratio (% of total)
3. Gross secondary enrollment ration (% of total)
These rankings are then compiled into an overall Mother’s Index Rank, Women’s Index Rank, and Children’s Rank for each development group.
A copy of the “State of the World’s Mothers” may be requested from Save the Children.
Another good resource (book) for learning the daunting truth about motherhood in America: The Price of Motherhood, by Ann Crittenden.
To view Norway’s family leave policy, go here:
For the U.S. family leave policy:
If these figures disturb you, you may be interested in looking up MomsRising.org. These moms are nudging, lobbying, courting and picketing our lawmakers for change, and making it very easy for us to do so as well, by clicking and sending e-mails to our legislators, holding discussion groups, and many other ways to make waves. So far they have met with great success!
BIO: Alison Hedlund began writing poetry at the age of 15 and majored in English and creative writing at Michigan State University.Her work has placed in a few contests: A Dyer-Ives Prize in Michigan, The Red Cedar Reviewat MSU, and Tidepools. She participated in The Shape of Water reading and art exhibit, sponsored by the Port Townsend Arts Commission.
Along with family and work, poetry and music compete for attention in her life, though poetry is now moving ahead of music. For over 30 years, she has played Scandinavian fiddle for dances in old-time American and Scandinavian bands. She was a member of the Clover Blossom Band for 12 years, playing all over the Puget Sound area, and appears on their CD, Monday Night in Poulsbo. In the summer of 2010 she tutored Scandinavian fiddle tunes at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington.
Her work has also been published in MamaStew: an Anthology – Reflections and Observations about Mothering, edited by Elisabeth Rotchford Haigt and Sylvia Platt.