Society & Policy

Norway tops UN quality-of-life index

For the fourth year in a row, a United Nations study has ranked Norway as the best place to live in the world. The index ranks nations according to income, life expectancy and education levels

19/07/2004 :: Every summer, the United Nations Development Program issues a thorough, state-of-the-world-like report in which the world's countries are ranked according to the Human Development Index, a system for determining standard of living. This year, as in the previous three, Norway tops the list, while neighboring Sweden has climbed one spot to number two.

The UNDP has created the index in order to measure the extent of human development in countries around the world. In the report's foreword, its authors write that in order to reach the UN's Millennium Goals, countries must strive to become inclusive, culturally diverse societies.

"Human development is first and foremost about allowing people to lead the kind of life they choose—and providing them with the tools and opportunities to make those choices," the report reads.

High average income
The report states that Norway has a life expectancy of 79 years and a school enrollment ratio of 98 percent.

As usual, industrialized nations figure heavily in the top 20, with the United States coming in at eighth place, and the United Kingdom at 12th. At the bottom of the list, for the seventh year in a row, lies Sierra Leone, still suffering from the consequences of civil war.

Norway tops the list, the report argues, because of its high wealth combined with a small population. The average income in Norway is, according to the report, a staggering USD 36,600. Only Luxembourg, with an average income of USD 61,190 can top that. In comparison, Sweden's average income is USD 26,050, while that of Ethiopia is USD 780.

Millennium Goals
But the report is not primarily created as a way of seeing how well the already rich countries fare when compared to each other. More imporantly, the report shows how far the United Nations have come in implementing the Millennium Goals that were agreed upon in 2000. See the link on the right hand side for more information on these goals.

The 2004 report shows disturbing signs that development is actually in reversal in 20 of the world's nations. 13 of these lie in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the report, the main reason for this reversal is the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis. Life expectancy in eight of the sub-Saharan nations has now fallen below 40 years because of the disease.

"The Aids crisis cripples states at all levels because the disease attacks people in their most productive years,"  Mark Malloch Brown, head of the UNDP, told the BBC.

Read the full report by clicking the UNDP link on the right.

The top 20:
1. Norway
2. Sweden
3. Australia
4. Canada
5. Netherlands
6. Belgium
7. Iceland
8. United States
9. Japan
10. Ireland
11. Switzerland
12. Britain
13. Finland
14. Austria
15. Luxembourg
16. France
17. Denmark
18. New Zealand
19. Germany
20. Spain

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Photo: Pål Bugge / IN