A Swedish mother and child. Photo: Lena Granefelt/Image Bank Sweden
Sweden remains among the top five countries in the world to be a mother, according to Save the Children's annual global scorecard, with Stockholm singled out for tackling inequality among women.
Based on five indicators related to maternal health, education, income levels and the status of women, Sweden has been ranked 5th in the world in Save the Children's 16th annual Mothers' Index, which rates a total of 179 countries.
Scandinavian countries have consistently taken the top spots in the index, with Norway
this year beating Finland which came first last year. Sweden dropped below Iceland and Denmark after ranking third in 2014.
Somalia was ranked the worst place, just below the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Meanwhile the US dropped to the 33rd spot, while the UK only managed 24th place.
Sweden scored highly because of its gender balance in parliament and maternal death rates, which are lower than in neighbouring Denmark and in Iceland. Only one mother in 13,600 is at risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth in Sweden. By contrast American women have a one in 1,800 risk of maternal death, the worst level of risk of any developed country in the world.
But all the other Nordic nations were found to offer more expected years of formal schooling and demonstrated slightly lower death rates for under fives, pushing their overall scores above Sweden's.
"The report is made in order to show the huge differences between the rich and the poor, and the differences between Scandinavian countries is usually small," Anders Maxon, Media Manager for Save The Children told The Local.
"The methodology is too rough to really suggest if there has been a decline in quality of life for Swedish mothers compared to a year ago," he added.
Stockholm is praised by Save the Children for tackling inequality. Photo: Cecila Larsson/Image Bank Sweden
Save the Children also looked at infant mortality rates in the world's 24 wealthiest capitals and noted that both Oslo and Stockholm had fewer than two deaths per 1,000. Washington DC had the highest rate at 7.9.
The charity's CEO Carolyn Miles said the data confirmed that a country's economic wealth is not the sole factor leading to happy mothers, but that policies need to be put in place.
In the case of Norway, "they do have wealth, but they also invest that wealth in things like mothers and children, as a very high priority," Miles said.
The global report singled Stockholm as an example of a city that had managed to reverse extreme inequality and suggested that current developing cities could learn from its experience.
"Stockholm is one of the best places to be a mother and raise a child, but it was not always so. Around 1900, Stockholm was similar to many cities in poor countries today," it said.
Save the Children noted that in response to public concern, the city government introduced policies to reduce deaths among these vulnerable groups including advising parents on child care and feeding, improving living conditions and providing clean water and sanitation for all residents.
By 1925, Stockholm’s infant mortality rate had dropped 75 percent and survival gaps had narrowed.
In subsequent decades, the Swedish government also introduced free maternal and child health services, financial support to low-income families and general welfare and housing reforms.
"The improvements over the last 50+ years in mortality and morbidity rates in highly urbanized countries like Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands and Singapore are testimony to the potentially health-promoting features of modern cities," the report added.