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Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Estonia and Portugal rank highest for family-friendly policies in OECD and EU countries

(13 June 2019) Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Estonia and Portugal offer the best family-friendly policies among 31 rich countries with available data, according to a new UNICEF report. Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, United Kingdom and Ireland rank the lowest.Produced by UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti the report ranks countries across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) based on their national family-friendly policies. These policies include the duration of parental leave at full pay equivalent, and childcare services for children aged between 0-6 years old.The report is part of UNICEF’s early childhood development policy and programmatic work, and Early Moments Matter campaign, now in its third year, which aims to support families in providing their young children with the nurturing environment and stimulating experiences needed for healthy brain development.“There is no time more critical to children’s brain development – and therefore their futures – than the earliest years of life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “We need governments to help provide parents with the support they need to create a nurturing environment for their young children. And we need the support and influence of the private sector to make this happen.”Family-friendly policies strengthen the bond between parents and their children, which is critical for the development of families and socially cohesive societies. UNICEF advocates for at least six months of paid leave for parents, and for universal access to quality, affordable childcare from birth to children’s entry into the first grade of school. In line with the Early Moments Matter campaign, UNICEF is working with governments, civil society, academics, and the private sector – which plays an important role in influencing policies – to encourage greater investment in families.Taking a closer look at parental leave at full pay equivalent in 41 countries, Are the world’s richest countries family friendly? Policy in the OECD and EU notes that only half of countries offer at least six months of leave at full pay for mothers. Estonia offers mothers the longest duration of leave at full pay at 85 weeks, followed by Hungary (72 weeks) and Bulgaria (61 weeks). The United States is the only country included in the analysis with no national paid leave policy for mothers or fathers. The report also finds that even when fathers are offered paid leave, many do not take it. In Japan, the only country that offers at least six months at full pay for fathers, only 1 in 20 took paid leave in 2017. The Republic of Korea has the second longest, yet fathers only make up 1 in 6 of all parents who take parental leave. Paid paternity leave helps fathers bond with their babies, contributes to healthy infant and child development, lowers maternal depression and increases gender equality, the report says. It calls for national policies ensuring paid paternity leave and encouraging fathers to use it.For some parents looking for childcare options once they are ready to return to work, affordability is the biggest barrier. According to data from 29 countries, parents of young children in the United Kingdom were the most likely to cite cost as the reason why they do not use childcare centres more. However, in Czechia, Denmark and Sweden, cost was an issue for less than 1 in 100 parents who said that they had an unmet need for childcare services.The report offers guidance on how countries can improve their family-friendly policies:Provide statutory, nationwide paid parental leave of at least six months for parents.Enable all children to access high-quality, age-appropriate, affordable and accessible childcare centres irrespective of family circumstances.Ensure there is no gap between the end of parental leave and the start of affordable childcare so that children can continue their development without interruption.Ensure that mothers can breastfeed both before and after they return to work by providing lengthy-enough paid parental leave, guaranteed breaks at work and safe and appropriate locations to breastfeed and pump. Collect more and better data on all aspects of family-friendly policies so that programmes and policies can be monitored, and countries compared.LEARN MORE & DOWNLOAD THE REPORT: www.unicef-irc.org/family-friendly 
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Global Researchers on Child Internet Use Gather at Innocenti

(28 May 2019) In high- and middle-income countries, and increasingly also in low-income countries, many children’s activities are underpinned by internet and mobile phone access in one way or another. Across truly diverse domestic, cultural and geographic contexts, many children now use digital and online technologies as part of their everyday lives.
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UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival

(2 May 2019) Three anniversaries of global significance for children will align with important implications for the city of Florence in 2019: 1. the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2. the 30th anniversary of the opening of the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, and 3. the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Ospedale Degli Innocenti. To commemorate these "triple anniversaries," the inaugural UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival will be held in Florence 25 - 27 October 2019. The festival will showcase the world’s best current film, video, multi-media, with emphasis on young artists and the Global South.
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Mental Health in Malawi: New Study Shows Positive Impacts of Cash for Youth

(18 April 2019) In a new paper published by the journal of Social Science and Medicine, UNICEF Innocenti researchers working with the Transfer Project demonstrate the positive effects of unconditional cash transfers on the mental health of youth in Malawi.
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Researchers and Policy-Makers Discuss Evidence for Social Protection Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa

(10 April 2019) Celebrating 10 years of building evidence for action on cash transfers in Africa, the Transfer Project’s latest multi-stakeholder workshop in Arusha, Tanzania recently gathered social protection experts from 20 African countries. Attended by government representatives, NGOs, academics, and donors, the workshop facilitated cross-country learning, dialogue and debate to inform the development of social protection policies.
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Participation in Sport Can Improve Children’s Learning and Skills Development

(28 March 2019) Participation in sport improves children’s educational attainment and skills development including empowerment, leadership and self-esteem – contributing to their overall well-being and future prospects, according to new research released today by the Barça Foundation and UNICEF. “It’s long been understood that sport promotes children’s health, and physical development, but now we have solid evidence to suggest that sport can have a powerful impact on their overall education and life skills development,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka. “We must use this evidence to inspire investment in sports for children, especially the most vulnerable.”
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International effort to strengthen evidence on violence against children

(14 March 2019) Ending violence against children by 2030 is among the most important goals for children in the SDGs. The lack of robust, disaggregated data and evidence to understand the magnitude and nature of violence against children in their respective countries remains a challenge.
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Is There a Ladder of Children’s Online Participation?

(26 February 2019) Is internet access providing children with new opportunities to enhance their participation? What do they need to benefit from these new opportunities and is there a gap between what we expect and what really happens?To address these crucial questions, UNICEF Innocenti and the Global Kids Online network has released a new Innocenti Research Brief, "Is there a ladder of children’s online participation?" which presents the findings of surveys on children’s internet access and use, opportunities and skills, risks and safety conducted in Bulgaria, Chile and South Africa.Findings show that although many children enjoy some of the opportunities offered by internet, most children do not engage in all opportunities offered by the civic, informational and creative activities that earmark the digital age and are available on the net.Two adolescent girls use a cellphone outside a solar kiosk in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugeesLife context and skills likely influence how children navigate different pathways to online opportunities. Differences among countries suggest that pathways can be designed differently depending on national goals and values and that countries can mutually learn from experiences of others to integrate out-of-school- learning into school curricula.“Much is still unclear about how online opportunities translate into clear benefits,” said Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, UNICEF Innocenti’s research lead on child internet use. “The Global Kids Online network is currently researching whether certain activities are associated with children’s digital skills development, and whether other activities are associated with increased risk of harm.”Despite the differences among the three countries, cross-nationally comparative data reveal some commonalities in the behavior of children online that, according to the researchers, can represent ‘steps’ on the ladder of online participation. However, the ladder cannot suggest whether children begin at the bottom and climb to a certain point. Without availability of longitudinal data, in fact, steps on the ladder can only map out a theoretical pathway to online participation. Among the activities measured by the survey – i.e. learning, creativity, community and civic participation, relationships, entertainment and personal benefits – results reveal that 9-11-year-olds take their first steps by engaging in social activities and gaming; activities that seem to encourage early internet use across the three countries; 12-14-year-olds do rather more activities, including some learning and information activities; 15-17-year-olds are more engaged in civic and creative activities. The first step – social activities and gaming – shows that across the three countries these activities appear attractive and accessible to children, encouraging early internet use. Whether they also provide encouragement to progress and advance in online experience and expertise by building the initial skills of children so that kids can climb further up the ladder, is something that still requires further investigation. Children learn with the help of a computer tablet provided by UNICEF at a school in Baigai, northern Cameroon.Similarly, as online gaming is the most common activity in all three countries among the youngest children, it could be better exploited and used as a gateway to constructive educational and participatory activities online, as well as to support digital skills development, if games would be created to provide learning opportunities while still entertaining.Learning activities have also been found at the first step in all three countries. However, this is more evident where governments and policy makers support ICT in education systems and curricula like in Chile. Findings show that a considerable proportion of children in all three countries use the internet for schoolwork, which might help them compensate for inequalities at home and, in the longer term, it could help them become more used to utilizing the internet for educational purposes. The finding that relatively few children participate in activities higher up on the ladder, i.e. creative and civic activities, suggests that they may lack motivation, skills and support to engage in them. Activities on the higher steps seem to be reserved mainly for older children according to the brief. However, more evidence would be necessary to investigate why this is the case, and if policy and programme interventions can make a difference. “It’s easy to assume that because children have access to the internet, they are gaining all the benefits of the online world. But our findings show they are not. I hope the brief will stimulate innovative policies to improve children’s enjoyment of their participation rights.”, said Sonia Livingstone, Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science and lead author of the brief.Due to its nature, the research cannot be interpreted normatively because the list of online activities children are engaged with is not exhaustive and likely to change over time. Further studies must be developed to investigate the qualitative aspects of what children value and why in their online journeys; to evaluate the concrete benefits in short and long term of children’s online participation; to analyze the multifactorial and multidimensional factors and risks associated with online children’s participation; and to confirm whether and how online activities may improve children’s digital skills.Despite these caveats, however, it may be valuable for countries to set expectations for which activities they believe children might benefit from at various stages of their development and evaluate outcomes and inequalities against them. This could help increase the number of children benefitting from the opportunities that internet and mobile technologies can offer.
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Protecting Children in Migration Across the European Union: Learning from Practices

(20 February 2019) The huge spike in numbers of migrant and refugee children arriving in Europe between mid-2015 and mid-2017 put significant strain not only on asylum systems but also protection and welfare services. However, it also led to national and EU authorities putting in place promising and innovative responses to protect children on the move in Europe.
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Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women

(18 February 2019) On the occasion of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, UNICEF and the GAGE consortium coordinated by ODI will hold the side event: Status Gender and Adolescent Responsive Social Protection: Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women.
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