Leading article: Parents who are cash-rich but time-poor

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Four years ago, Unicef caused a stir with a report that placed Britain at the bottom of a league of developed countries for the wellbeing of its children. Now it has compared the experience of children in the UK with that of their peers in Sweden and Spain – countries that came in the top five – in an attempt to discover why. Again, the UK is found wanting. Our children, it says, are suffering from the time-poverty and materialism of their parents, who give them expensive toys as misguided compensation for the family time they cannot, or perhaps choose not to, afford.

Of course, there are dangers in over-interpreting international quality-of-life tables, as there are with interpretations of league tables of all kinds. The chosen indices may be arbitrary. Too much standardisation can be misleading. Countries and cultures are different for all sorts of reasons, and what works in one place does not necessarily work in another. The UK is a densely populated country and a democracy that sets its priorities, by and large, according to voters' preferences.

Yet it is salutary sometimes to see yourself and your country as others see you, and the picture of hassled parents, too busy earning money to sit down to a family meal or read a story to their children, will be familiar to many. And while family time may not be easy to find, the message from the new Unicef study is that, as a country and not just as parents, we need to try quite a bit harder.

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