Norway the best place to live: UN

The United Nations on Thursday named oil-rich Norway as the country with the best quality of life, while Asia has made the biggest strides in recent decades.

The UN's annual A-to-Z of global wealth, poverty, health and education highlighted however that it is becoming ever more difficult to break into the rich club of nations.

Norway - with its 81.0 years of life expectancy and average annual income of 58,810 dollars - has now topped the Human Development Index (HDI) for all but two years since 2001.

It doesn't come in first place in any individual category - average income in Liechtenstein, for example, is a wallet-busting 81,011 dollars and Japan's life expectancy is 83.6 years - but Norway's all-round performance gave it superiority in the UN Development Programme (UNDP) 20th annual rankings.

Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland, in order, also made the top five.

Zimbabwe came in last among the 169 nations ranked, behind Mozambique, Burundi, Niger and Democratic Republic of Congo.

In stark contrast to the leaders, in Zimbabwe life expectancy is just 47 years and per capita income 176 dollars.

DR Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe are the only three countries to see their HDI value fall below 1970 levels.

"These countries offer lessons on the devastating impact of conflict, the AIDS epidemic and economic and political mismanagement," said UNDP chief Helen Clarke, the former New Zealand prime minister.

The study aims to give a broader assessment of quality of life than just income - by including, health, education, gender equality and political freedom - and its lead writer Jeni Klugman said most of the world has seen "dramatic progress" since 1970.

Average life expectancy rose from 59 to 70 years, primary school enrollment grew from 55 to 70 percent, and per capita incomes doubled to more than 10,000 dollars. Many of the poorest countries achieved some of the greatest gains, she said.

"Overall they are healthier, more educated and wealthier and more power to appoint and hold their leaders accountable than ever before," Klugman added.

"But some countries have suffered serious setbacks, particularly in health - sometimes erasing the gains of several decades," Klugman added.

The nations which have risen most up the rankings in recent decades include "growth miracles" such as China, which has risen eight places in the last five years to 89th, Indonesia and South Korea.

East Asia and the Pacific had by far the strongest overall performance of any region over the past 40 years - twice the average worldwide progress.

China, the second highest index achiever since 1970, has been successful mainly because of income rather than health or education, the report said.

China's per capita income increased 21-fold over four decades, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. Yet China was not among Asia's top performers in school enrollment and life expectancy.

Klugman highlighted that "economic growth alone does not automatically bring improvements in health and education."

Nepal surprisingly emerged as one of the most improved nations since 1970, despite its longstanding civil war. A child born today in Nepal can expect to live 25 years longer than a child born in 1970.

In six sub-Saharan African countries and three in the former Soviet Union, life expectancy is now below 1970 levels. Mainly because of the HIV epidemic and tougher conditions for adults in former communist nations.

And even though incomes have grown dramatically, poor nations are not making the same economic strides as they are in health and education.

"On average rich countries have grown faster than poor ones over the past 40 years.

"The divide between developed and developing countries persists: a small subset of countries has remained at the top of the world income distribution and only a handful of countries that started out poor have joined that high income group," the report concluded.

tw/sg

 

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

    £23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

    Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

    £14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower