Canada is lagging behind other developed countries when it comes to the well-being of its poorest children, according to a new report.

The landmark UNICEF report titled The Children Left Behind ranks 24 industrialized nations on inequality in terms of children's health, education and material well-being.

The report measures the gap in each country between the average child and a child at the bottom in terms of well-being.

At No. 17, Canada ranks below average among industrialized countries when it comes to the material well-being of its poorest children — a category that includes family income and housing.

Canada does better in education and health, ranking third and ninth respectively.

"With stronger public policy, Canada can rise above its mediocre performance and leave no child behind," said Marv Bernstein, chief adviser, advocacy for UNICEF Canada.

"The level of family income is a major influence on all aspects of child well-being. Canada should address income inequality by promoting fairly paid and highly skilled employment and through sufficient and fairly distributed benefits and taxation."

An overall measure of statistics from 2004 through 2007 shows Canada placed in the middle of the group of wealthy nations, similar to less-affluent countries like Poland and Portugal.

Among the report's other highlights:

  • Switzerland has the least inequality in material well-being, closely followed by Iceland and the Netherlands. The highest relative gaps are reported in Slovakia, the United States and Hungary.
  • Inequality in children's educational achievement outcomes (in reading, math and science literacy) is lowest in Finland, followed by Ireland and Canada. It is highest in Belgium, France and Austria.
  • The lowest levels of inequality for health are registered in the Netherlands, followed by Norway and Portugal, while the widest gaps are found in Hungary, Italy and the United States.