The 19 countries with the highest standard of life

Matthew Nitch Smith
Sunday 23 October 2016 17:56

The countries with the highest quality of life have been announced by the not-for-profit organisation Social Progress Imperative.

Scandinavian nations scored highly in the "Social Progress Index," but more surprising are the very large countries which came lower down the list — suggesting that a strong GDP per capita is not the only gauge for a high standard of living.

Despite this, all of the top 19 countries are developed nations — so having a strong economy clear has an impact.

The "Social Progress Index" collates the scores of three main indexes:

Basic Human Needs, which includes medical care, sanitation, and shelter.

Foundations of Wellbeing, which covers education, access to technology, and life expectancy.

Opportunity, which looks at personal rights, freedom of choice, and general tolerance.

The index then adds the three different factors together, before giving each nation a score out of 100. You can see the countries with the highest quality of life below.

19. United States — 84.62. The US scraping into the top 20 may surprise some, and the report does call it a "disappointment," saying the country's huge economy does not translate into social progress for many of its citizens.

18. France — 84.79. For many France is a liberal bastion, but it scored low on "tolerance and inclusion" in the report, while a poor score in "opportunity" keeps it further down the list than it perhaps should be.

17. Spain — 85.88. One of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, Spain has a strong welfare system and work life balance, but high youth unemployment has hurt the standard of life for many of its citizens.

16. Belgium — 86.19. The HQ of the European Union scores highly on social progress and demonstrates that sometimes being a smaller country makes it easier to look after all your inhabitants.

15. Germany — 86.42. Another country which might be a bit lower down than some people would expect, Germany scores highly for inclusiveness after taking in more than a million refugees over the past few months, but some wonder if the infrastructure can handle it.

14. Japan — 86.54. The 'Land of the Rising Sun' has made great strides in social progress in the last decade, particularly in women entering the workforce. It still has a very small immigrant population, though, and suicide rates for under-30s remain high.

13. Austria — 86.60. Vienna is a cultural capital of Europe and Austrian ski slopes attract people from all over the world. Having the 14th biggest economy in the world, according to the IMF, does not hurt standard of living either.

12. Ireland — 87.94. Brits scrambling for Irish passports in the wake of the vote for a Brexit may be pleased to discover it scores very high on meeting "basic human needs," and the potential investment of companies moving from the UK will only make things better.

T-10. New Zealand — 88.45. New Zealand's tourist board calls it "the youngest country in the world," and it is certainly one of the most beautiful. "Opportunity" is where it scores really high, as a low population means jobs are in abundance.

T-10. Iceland — 88.45. Speaking of beautiful countries, Iceland scores very well in social progress, particularly in the "basic human needs" index and GDP per capita. Its football team has proven itself a force to be reckoned with too.

9. United Kingdom — 88.58. The NHS is big part of the UK's high placing, with "basic medical care" scoring almost 100% on the report. Education scores almost as highly, with free access to quality schools.

8. Netherlands — 88.65. The Netherlands is famously one of the most tolerant countries in the world, so its position in the top ten should be no surprise. It is one of the highest-scoring countries on "personal freedom and choice."

7. Norway — 88.70. Get used to seeing Scandinavian nations in the top ten. Norway is big on "nutrition and basic medical care," and its "access to basic knowledge" is strong too. Many have said the Norway model is one to follow for a non-EU UK.

6. Sweden — 88.80. "Water and sanitation" may be taken for granted in developed economies, but it is not enjoyed everywhere. Luckily it is an area Sweden nails, scoring 99.77. The country also picks up high scores in "nutrition" and "personal rights."

5. Switzerland — 88.87. Switzerland may have some of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, but its citizens get value for money. According to the Social Progress Report, "medical", "nutritional" and "access to basic knowledge" is where the country shines.

4. Australia — 89.13. There is a good reason so many people want to start a new life "down under." Austrailia has fantastic education, job opportunities and a strong sense of personal freedom. Its "tolerance and inclusion" score could be higher though.

3. Denmark — 89.39. Denmark has one of the best social mobility and income equality rates in the world, so no surprise it makes it into the top three on this list. "Basic human needs" is where the country scores particularly highly, though its "health and wellness" stats such as life expectancy could be higher.

2. Canada — 89.49. For such a huge nation, Canada only has 35 million citizens, and they are some of the best looked after in the world. Canada's healthcare is what stands it above the rest. Education and opportunity in the country are also impressively strong.

1. Finland — 90.09. Everyone says Nordic nations have the highest standard of living, and now Finland has made it official. It scores highly on almost every index on the report, from basic needs, foundations of wellbeing and personal freedoms. If you move there just make sure to bring warm coat — temperatures can reach minus 50 celsius​ in the winter!

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Read the original article on Business Insider UK. © 2016. Follow Business Insider UK on Twitter.

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