Canada leads in quality of life

CANADA is back on top as the world's most developed country with Switzerland running a close second.

Japan, which headed the UN's Human Development Index league table in 1990, 1991 and 1993, has fallen back into third place. Canada last came top in 1992. Britain is listed as number 10, one place ahead of Germany.

Meanwhile, Guinea retains its unenviable status as the least-developed country in the world, as measured by the index. Life expectancy in the African state is 43.9 years, the adult literacy rate is 27 per cent, the average child spends less than one year of its life at school and Gross Domestic Product per person is dollars 500 ( pounds 333).

The index, first calculated in 1990, was yesterday published for the fourth year running along with the UN Development Programme's Human Development Report. It gives each country a value between one and zero based on the size of its economy per capita, the educational attainment of its citizens and how long they live. The index was devised because the UN felt money alone was not the best way to compare whether one country's people have a better quality of life than another's.

Although criticised for being simplistic, the index is enjoying growing popularity as a way of showing the vast and growing differences in the quality of life between countries. The accompanying report says that 60 per cent of the world's population now enjoy 'fairly satisfactory' human development levels with an index value above 0.6, compared to only 25 per cent in 1960.

It also finds hope in the fact that global military spending has fallen significantly in the past six years, and that more than one-half of the world's peoples 'live in relatively pluralistic and democratic regimes'.

----------------------------------------------------------------- HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX ----------------------------------------------------------------- Value Rank Canada 0.932 1 Switzerland 0.931 2 Japan 0.929 3 Sweden 0.928 4 USA 0.925 8 United Kingdom 0.919 10 Germany 0.918 11 Afghanistan 0.208 171 Burkina Faso 0.203 172 Guinea 0.191 173 -----------------------------------------------------------------