Are the world’s richest countries family friendly?

Policy in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union countries

A father and mother with their newborn baby in their private room in the maternity ward of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, in Exeter, Devon, England. The father is a civil servant who is getting paternity leave from his work.


Children get a better start in life and parents are better able to balance work and home commitments in countries that have family-friendly policies – paid parental leave, support for breastfeeding and affordable, high-quality childcare and preschool education.

This report looks at family-friendly policies in 41 high- and middle-income countries using four country-level indicators: the duration of paid leave available to mothers; the duration of paid leave reserved specifically for fathers; the share of children below the age of 3 in childcare centres; and the share of children between the age of 3 and compulsory school age in childcare or preschool centres.

The report highlights that

  • Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Estonia and Portugal offer the best family-friendly policies among 31 rich countries with available data.
  • Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, United Kingdom and Ireland rank the lowest.

UNICEF is advocating for

  • At least six months of leave for all parents.
  • Safe and comfortable public and work-based places for women to breastfeed.
  • Universal access to quality, affordable childcare from birth to children’s entry into the first grade of school.

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