Japan ranked the highest in childcare leave among 41 high-income countries, but lagged behind Luxembourg and seven other European countries that received the highest marks overall for childrearing support in a United Nations Children's Fund survey released Thursday.

Japan, which came in 21st overall, was given credit for allowing the longest paid childcare leave for fathers among the surveyed countries, although the rate of men actually taking leave remained small despite gradual improvement, the UNICEF survey showed.

In the overall rankings, Iceland placed second, followed by Sweden and Norway. South Korea, at ninth, ranked the highest among countries outside Europe.

The United States came in at 40th and Slovakia ranked at the bottom among the 41 countries.

In categories other than family leave, Japan was evaluated harshly, placing 31st in ease of using childcare services, 22nd in the quality of childcare services and 26th in the affordability of such services.

The UNICEF survey covered 41 countries that belong to either the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or the European Union.