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At Money Guru, we understand that where to raise your child is one of life’s great questions. There are plenty of factors to consider, and the right decision will only enhance family life.

To that end, we have conducted research on the things that matter when raising a child, compiling a list of essential criteria and calculating a score for each country based on their performance in each area. We’ve analysed the results to find the best place to raise a child; to find out how the UK compares to the rest of the world.

The UK is the world’s sixth best place to be a parent

The results are in - the UK comes in at number six* for the best place to raise a child. Based on the quality of education, financial assistance, shared parental leave and benefits available and many other factors.

Countries within the top five and offering a better quality of life for raising children than the UK include Norway, Iceland, Germany, Switzerland and, surprisingly, Singapore.

Singapore takes the no.4 spot, scoring better than the UK in:

  • Average disposable income to feed a family of four
  • Quality of education
  • Employment levels

However, the UK did pick up points for:

  • Providing unpaid leave for both parents to attend to their child’s health needs
  • The opportunity for fathers to take up to 14 weeks paternity leave
  • Ranking 15th out of 193 countries when it comes to bridging the gender pay gap

The Scandinavian countries take the top two spots

Norway and Iceland are number one and two respectively for the best places to be a parent, with only a two-point difference in their overall score. The Scandinavian countries ranked high for a number of factors, including parental leave for both parents, financial assistance and quality of education.

Why do the Scandinavians have it so good?

Scandinavian life is world-famous, renowned for their relaxed lifestyle and good work-life balance. Both Norway and Iceland place second and fourth, respectively, in the 2018 World Happiness Index Report. Looking at the data available for raising a child in the world, the Scandinavian countries have it all figured out. So, where is the UK going wrong?

Norway and Iceland top the UK for parental leave

The UK may offer unpaid leave for parents when looking after their ill children. However, we can’t quite touch the Scandinavians when it comes to maternity and paternity leave - offering full, paid parental leave for both parents.

Norway even goes one step further than Iceland, providing benefits for parents without a means test for childcare and school costs.

However, the UK climbs back up the leaderboard for financial assistance for providing two pre-school aged children, offering up to £115 purchasing power parity (PPP) - mirroring Norway.

Iceland and Norway have bridged the gender pay gap

The Scandinavians can teach the world a lot about the gender pay gap. Iceland and Norway place first and second (UK in 15th) in our chart for countries closing the gap between men and women, making huge steps to promoting women in the workplace.

The Gender Quotas legislate in Norway, for instance, demands a 40% female presence in the country’s parliament and on business boards. Many companies, today, enjoy a near-even ratio of men and women.

Scandinavian maternity and paternity leave the most generous in the world

Maternity and paternity leave in the Scandinavian countries is actively encouraged - offering:

  • Up to 52 weeks maternity for new mothers
  • 14 weeks or more paternity leave
  • Job protection guaranteed throughout
  • Additional financial assistance for parents

Iceland also provides new mothers with nine months full-paid leave, and three months for the father.

Cambodia and Panama outrank the UK for parental leave

The Scandinavians are top of the charts for maternity and paternity leave, but the same can also be said for Cambodia, Panama, South Africa and Israel offer full paid leave for mum and dad. On the other hand, the UK only offers unpaid leave for parents should their child fall ill.

UK places 16th for quality of education

While record numbers of Chinese students are applying for places at British universities, the UK does not rank within the top 10 countries in the world for quality of education. Based on the collective maths, reading and science scores - the UK nears the bottom of the top 20 countries, sitting in 16th place.

However, surprisingly due to the number of Chinese students studying in the UK, China takes the top spot for quality of education, followed closely by Finland and Singapore. Other countries offering a better quality of education for their children are Estonia, Belgium, Poland and Australia.

Of course, there are many more factors to consider when choosing where to raise a family, but it’s interesting to see what your desired place offers in comparison with other countries. It’s clear, however, that when both children and parents have more opportunities, they’re likely to have a happier and more content life.


* Our data was compiled from a number of sources to create a score per country. We allocated points to each country, anywhere from 0 – 193 (the total number of countries), based on their performance for each criteria. The areas we looked at were as follows;

  • Maternity & Paternity Time Off
  • Gender Pay Gap
  • Job Protection Through Maternity
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Quality of Education
  • Benefits Available for Childcare & School Costs
  • Financial Assistance for Low-Income Families (2 pre-school aged children)
  • Average Annual Income
  • Percentage of Annual Wage Spent on Food (Family of 4)
  • Parental Leave for Child’s Everyday Health Needs
  • Average Number of Children per Woman (2015) (no score given as this skewed the data massively and can be attributed in large part to cultural difference.)

We allocated points to each country based on the criteria above. The higher the score, the better the overall total. We ranked countries top to bottom by this overall score.  In the event that no data was available for a specific area of focus, the country was assigned ‘0’ for that section, as we were unable to measure.

**Data correct as of 06/06/18