A new study based on analysis of issues affecting girls has ranked the best countries for young women to live in – and Australia is far from first place.
The report, from international children’s rights group Save the Children, ranks Sweden as the best out of 144 focus countries, with the African nation of Niger at the bottom of the list based on 2015 figures.
The study measures countries according to levels of teen pregnancy, rates of child marriage, maternal mortality, secondary school completion and the number of women in government.
And despite Australia’s position as number two in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, it sits considerably lower at number 21 in the Every Last Girl report.
Australia ranks behind Israel, Serbia and Slovenia in the overall index score.
This is largely due to Australia’s low proportion of women MPs and relatively high adolescent fertility rate.
The report stated the number of women represented in parliament provides an insight into the prevalence – or absence – of female voices in public life.
In Australia, only 26 per cent of the House of Representatives is female, with 39 women represented.
The tiny, and troubled, African nation of Rwanda has 64 per cent female representation in its government.
Australia’s poor ranking was also affected by a teen pregnancy rate of 14.4 per 1000 births, a factor that pulled a number of countries down the list.
“Becoming mothers while still children themselves profoundly affects the course that girls’ lives take – often resulting in exclusion from education, entrenched poverty and social stigmatisation,” the report said.
Other high-income countries that also performed considerably worse than expected included the UK at number 15, Canada at 19 and New Zealand at 16.
More surprisingly, the world’s largest economy, the US, was ranked 32 out of the 144 countries, behind Algeria and Kazakhstan.
“Fourteen women died per 100,000 live births in the USA in 2015; a similar number to Uruguay and Lebanon, and far higher than the three deaths per 100,000 in Poland, Greece and Finland,” according to the report.
High levels of teen pregnancy at 24.1 per 1000 births and less than 20 per cent of female-elected government representatives added to America’s shortcomings.
The US ranked at number eight in the HDI index.
Where in the world is it hardest to be a girl?
According to the girls opportunity index, the worst places to be a young woman are the poorest countries in the world.
The 20 countries at the bottom of the index are all low-income nations in sub-Saharan Africa, with extremely high rates of deprivation across all indicators.
Chad, Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia round out the five lowest-rated nations, alongside Niger.
In Niger, 76 per cent of young women were said to be married before they turn 18, and one in five teenage girls give birth every year on average.
Only 10 per cent of girls in Niger are still at school by age 16.