Here are the best 25 countries to raise a family
As living costs rise, raising a family is becoming a more expensive endeavour. Priorities are changing too — more families are seeking out areas that offer easy and affordable access to education and childcare, low crime rates and family-friendly policies to help support a growing family. A good education will shape your child’s future, so it’s important to have good and affordable schooling nearby. Salaries and rental prices provide a good indication of cost and quality of living, where higher salaries and lower rental costs suggest a higher standard of living. Family and social policies, particularly around parental leave, are essential, though it’s surprising to see how many countries lag behind, particularly when it comes to paid paternity leave. Universal healthcare is a priority for everyone, but particularly so for young families, who are more likely to make frequent trips to the doctors and require good antenatal services.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best places in the world to raise a family using a comprehensive points system. We ranked more than 100 countries out of 20 in the following five categories:
- Global Safety Index
- OECD Median Salary
- Rent Index
- United Nations Education Index
For maternity and paternity leave, countries were ranked 25 points each, bringing the total overall points to 150.
So without further ado, here are the best places to raise a family in 2023.
Between its beaches, blockbuster cities and year-round sunshine, Australia makes an obvious location for families looking to live the good life. It ranks highly on the Global Safety Index (92) and boasts a brilliant education system (0.93), with formal schooling divided into four stages. Median salaries are high too, averaging $55,600 per annum. Sadly, rent and real estate costs are also high – the most expensive on the continent. Eligible fathers and partners are entitled to two weeks while mothers and other primary carers are entitled to 18 weeks of parental leave paid at the National Minimum Wage.
Home to some of Europe’s most spectacular landscapes, Slovakia is an ideal destination for families who prioritise quality time outdoors. The cost of living, while not as cheap as it used to be, is lower than in most of Europe too. Wages, while not high, can offer a reasonably high quality of life too. Real estate and rentals (14) are extremely affordable and rank amongst the cheapest in Europe. The country is slowly introducing more family-friendly social policies too, though it currently lags behind other countries when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Fathers are entitled to two weeks of unpaid leave with parental benefit entitlements.
Between its clean air and high-quality living, it isn’t hard to see why Switzerland makes such an appealing place to live for families. It’s safe (89), offers brilliant healthcare (20 points) and boasts some of the highest median salaries in Europe at 68,957. But living in Switzerland doesn’t come cheap – it’s one of the most expensive places to rent in the world. The country is better suited to older families too, due to its miserly maternity leave policy which is capped at 14 weeks.
Work-life balance and family are interwoven into Austrian culture, which explains why so many people choose to raise a family here. It ranks as one of the safest countries in the world (92) and boasts a highly-regarded universal healthcare system too. Salaries are high and average $58,189, but space doesn’t come at a premium like in many European countries. Rents have remained affordable, as have house prices. When it comes to parental leave, Austria falls behind some of its neighbours, which makes it a better option for those who do not plan to have more children. Currently, mothers are prohibited from working in the eight weeks leading up to and after birth.
Japan offers one of the most generous paternity policies in the whole of Asia, making it an excellent option for those who are toying with the idea of having a family. As of late 2022, male employees are entitled to four weeks' leave in either one or two instalments. Meanwhile, mothers have the right to six weeks’ leave before the birth and eight weeks afterwards. Salaries are reasonably high at $39,771 and rents are more affordable than those in neighbouring countries. The country has a good education system (0.85) and an excellent universal healthcare system (20 points). Crime levels are relatively low too, making it a safe destination to raise a family.
Liberal and multilingual. Belgium is a great place to raise a child. The healthcare system (20 points) is excellent, with particularly good maternity care. Education (0.89) is highly regarded too and there are thousands of top-notch institutions, from kindergarten to universities. In fact, the number of children enrolled in pre-primary education is one of the highest among OECD countries. The government has also introduced family-friendly policies, like subsidised crèches and more generous parental leave. From January 2023, fathers-to-be can enjoy 20 days of paternity leave or 40 half-days until a child is four years old. However, maternity policies are a little less generous than other European nations, with 15 weeks split before and after birth.
Safe and family-friendly, it’s little wonder why Ireland ranks as one of the best countries in the world to raise a family. The Emerald Isle scores exceptionally high for education (0.92), thanks to the widespread availability of good, state-funded schools. Children begin nursery school at four years old and it is compulsory for children to attend school from the ages of five to sixteen. Around 50 per cent of the population continues to third-level education at universities, technological and education colleges. Parental leave is generous too, at 26 weeks per child. However, you’ll want to make sure you’ve secured a well-paying job as rents are some of the most expensive in Europe. Average salaries, while fairly high, don’t quite tally up with the high costs of living.
If you’re ready to procreate, you might want to consider relocating to Bulgaria. Parents have the right to a generous maternity package, with up to 410 days per child. Maternity leave usually starts 45 days before the due date and benefits amount to 90% of the national average income. On top of this, fathers are entitled to 15 days of paid paternity, provided they have paid social insurance for at least 12 months. Healthcare is less accessible than in other EU nations, with a mixture of public and private facilities financed through taxes, compulsory insurance and out-of-pocket, though it remains affordable. Bulgaria falls a little short when it comes to schooling though: education is compulsory in state-owned schools between 7 and 16 years of age but most ex-pats send children to private international schools due to language barriers.
This small Baltic nation has become one of the best places in the world to raise a family, thanks to its healthcare reforms, low cost of living and family-friendly policies.
Women have the right to up to 140 days of paid maternity leave in Latvia, while fathers can take up to 10 days of paternity leave. Education (0.87) is free and compulsory for children aged between 5–18 years and the country has a high literacy rate of 99.7%. Salaries are low, averaging $32,325, though rent and cost of living are too, which means families can enjoy a high quality of life for a relatively low cost.
The rent index (21) in Spain has remained low, despite the rise in neighbouring countries, which means more space and expendable income for families. At $37,922, median salaries are still higher than those in central and eastern Europe, though fall short of most in northern Europe. Healthcare is free and universally accessible too. Each parent can enjoy up to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, which can be extended for multiple births or second and third children. Spain ranks highly for safety too (83). In most regions of Spain, schooling is available from the age of three and compulsory up to the age of 16 years, though recent research shows that young Spaniards are trailing behind other European nations in high-school education.
15. South Korea
South Korea has a family-oriented culture, with a strong emphasis on education. Parents are entitled to three months of maternity leave, which is paid for by employers through individual insurance. Eligible employees also have the right to ten days of paternity leave and children are also eligible for a monthly stipend to ease financial costs. The country ranks high on safety (82), average salaries are reasonably high at $41, 960 and rents are highly affordable (16). Schools are a mixture of public and private schools, though high school is neither free nor mandatory.
Slovenia is a family-friendly nation with a whole string of policies in place to make it easier to raise a family. Maternity leave lasts for 105 days and fathers have the right to 30 days of paternity leave. Both parents are entitled to a parental allowance of up to 2.5 times the amount of the average monthly wage too. The state also pays a one-off grant for each child born. According to the Global Safety Index, Slovenia is one of Europe’s safest countries too. However, the country slips up on healthcare (10 points). Unlike most countries in Europe, healthcare is not completely free and is covered by both the state and through patient contributions. Residents in Slovenia must have health insurance.
Lithuania is an excellent place to start a family thanks to its generous parental leave policy. Parents are entitled to up to two years of paid time off work and both parents receive two non-transferable months of paid leave. Working parents also have the right to more paid leave, with an additional paid day off per month. The country has a strong universal healthcare system too (20 points). Lithuania ranks highly for education (0.88): parents receive a monthly allowance towards kindergartens and children aged over six years are entitled to free schooling. Rents are low (15), though so are salaries at $37,210.
Estonia boasts excellent standards of living, with reasonably high median salaries and astonishingly low rent (15). Childcare is affordable for children of all ages, with kindergartens costing just €50-60 per day and widely available state-funded primary and secondary education. Mothers are entitled to 140 days of fully-paid maternity leave, while fathers are entitled to 10 paid days of paternity leave. However, both parents can take an additional 435 days of parental leave, either shared between the two or taken all at once by one parent before the child reaches three years of age.
Unsurprisingly, the whole of Scandinavia rank as an excellent place to raise a child thanks to strong economies and generous welfare systems. Sweden might have received the fewest points of the lot, but it still gets top billing when it comes to healthcare and parental policies. In fact, it was the only country to receive full marks for its progressive paternity package. Parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of combined paid parental leave or 240 days of paid parental leave each. This applies to both biological and adopted children. Salaries are high at $48,951 while rent remains comparatively affordable (23).
10. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic frequently ranks as one of the most livable countries in the world and it’s every bit as pleasant for families. The country gets full marks for both healthcare and rent, with some of the lowing living costs on our list. Maternity and paternity leave policies are reasonably strong too, with 28 weeks of paid leave for mothers and 14 days of paid parental leave for fathers and partners. Salaries ($31,771) are lower than the top entries on our list, as is education (0.89). Families can enjoy universal healthcare, with free medical treatment for Czech citizens, permanent residents and ex-pats working for a local company.
According to UNICEF, children in the Netherlands rank as the happiest in the world. Unlike many European countries, education is tailored to the individual needs and backgrounds of the pupils. That makes for a wide range of schooling options, from Montessori nurseries to bilingual schools. Paternity policies are strong too (23 points), with fathers or partners entitled to one week of paid paternity and five weeks at 70% of their salary. Employed parents are entitled to take unpaid parental leave for children under the age of eight too. However, safety levels (75) are lower than in neighbouring European countries.
8. New Zealand
New Zealand gets top marks when it comes to healthcare, education and safety, with 20 points respectively. The country has undergone extensive healthcare reforms in the past few decades and now offers universal healthcare through a publicly funded, regionally administrated system. Salaries are reasonably high ($46,976) and align with rent costs, which are cheaper than in neighbouring Australia. However, New Zealand’s parental leave policies let the country down. Parental leave can only be taken by one parent or split if both individuals are eligible. Parents are entitled to 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave or 26 weeks of government-funded parental leave payments.
Germany ranks highly for education and healthcare, both with 20 points. The country enjoys high standards of schooling, with partially-subsidized kindergarten and a wide range of state-funded schools. Median salaries ($56,040) are considerably higher than many other European countries, while rent remains affordable (26). Both parents are entitled to leave after the birth of a child, though there is no requirement for employers to pay a salary. Instead, mothers and fathers are entitled to a parental allowance of up to €1,800 per month to compensate for any loss in earnings. Both parents are can take leave up to three years after the birth of a child, making it one of the most flexible policies in Europe.
Poland is an excellent option for young families. Rent is much more affordable than in its northern European counterparts and, while average salaries are lower too at $32,527, the general cost of living is cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. The country boasts extremely strong healthcare (20 points) and good levels of safety (84) too. New mothers are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave at 100% of their salary, while fathers can take two weeks of paid paternity leave up until the child is 24 months old. Only education lags slightly behind our top five entries (16 points).
Finland has ranked as the happiest country in the world for five years on the trot, so it makes sense that families would be well catered for here. The country ranks particularly high for education (0.91), which encourages cooperation over competition and boasts high success levels (93% of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools). Parental leave is excellent too, with each parent entitled to 160 days of leave. Of this, 26 weeks are paid at 70% of the employee’s salary, while the remaining weeks are paid at a flat rate. This does mean that maternity leave ranks lower than its Nordic cousins, though the progressive paternity system outweighs any drawbacks.
Iceland is one of the most family-friendly destinations in the world. With a homicide rate of 7.3 per 100,000 people and high levels of law and social order, the country ranks highly for safety (0.91). Universal healthcare is enshrined in the law and its four-level education system is widely recognized as one of the strongest in Europe too. Standard maternity and paternity leave payments are 80 per cent of an average income and each parent receives six months of leave, making it particularly popular with fathers-to-be. Plus, Iceland frequently ranks as one of the happiest places in the world.
Denmark has been a top choice for parents for years, thanks to its excellent healthcare (20 points), education (0.92) and safety (94). At $61,331, median salaries are some of the highest in Europe, while rent costs (29) remain relatively affordable too. This has a serious impact on the cost of living and well-being, also bolstered by a highly accessible and affordable childcare system. Gender equality is high on the government agenda too, which explains its progressive approach to parental leave, which amounts to 52 weeks in total.
Singapore trails just behind the top destination for raising a family. It gets full marks for four out of seven categories: safety, education, salary and healthcare. The OECD has ranked Singapore’s education system, which is heavily subsidized by the government, as one of the highest in the world. It has repeatedly ranked as one of the world’s safest and most peaceful destinations too. Citizens enjoy universal healthcare and one of the highest median salaries in the world, at $76,872.32. Rent is notoriously high, though the high salaries cancel this out. Paternity care is reasonably strong (19 points) with two weeks of statutory paid leave, while mothers are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave (22 points).
Norway comes up trumps when it comes to raising a family. We ranked the country highly for safety (85), education (0.92) and healthcare (20 points), but what really sets this nation apart is its maternity and paternity offering. Mothers are entitled to a maternity grant and maternity leave, while fathers are entitled to up to 54 working days of parental leave. Some 80% of fathers take some amount of paternity leave, making it one of the best places in the world to raise a child as a new parent. Rent is high, but higher salaries account for this too.