Why it's tougher to be a mother in Britain than most of Europe


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The Independent Online

Britain is a worse place to be a mother than most of its European neighbours, including Germany, France and Ireland, claims a global survey of women's health and political influence.

This country's levels of maternal and infant mortality are higher than in many Western nations, while numbers of women in government in Britain are far lower than around the world. The UK was ranked 23rd in the annual Mothers' Index compiled by Save the Children.

The top three positions were filled by Finland, Sweden and Norway, while Germany was ninth, Australia 10th, France 16th and Ireland 20th. The United States was placed 30th in the ranking of 176 countries.

Britain has fallen 13 places since last year's report, although the charity stressed that its survey in 2012 was compiled using different criteria.

According to the survey, which is published today, the number of babies who die within 24 hours of being born is about 1.4 per 1,000, a rate that is higher than in Hungary, Malta or Ireland. It also says a British mother runs a one in 4,600 risk of dying in childbirth – worse than in Macedonia and Poland.

Higher levels of maternal and infant mortality in the UK could be partly explained by the relatively large proportion of younger and older mothers because of teenage and IVF pregnancy rates, Save the Children suggests.

Another contributory factor is poverty as women whose partners are jobless are six times more likely to die from maternal causes than women whose partners are in work.

British women are also under-represented in government compared with many countries around the world, claims the charity – just 17.5 per cent of Prime Minister David Cameron's ministers are female, a rate lagging behind dozens of nations including Afghanistan, Angola and Belarus.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said next month's meeting in Northern Ireland of the G8's most industrialised nations would be a "critical opportunity to tackle hunger which accounts for a third of child deaths". Mr Forsyth said that David Cameron, who will chair the meeting, "must make sure we seize this opportunity".