Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 14:48 UK

Norway 'the best place to live'

Norwegian children
Children in Norway can look forward to a high quality of life

Norway is the best place in the world to live while Niger is the least desirable, according to an annual report by the United Nations.

The 182 countries were ranked according to the quality of life their citizens experienced.

Criteria examined included life expectancy, literacy rates, school enrolment and country economies.

However the UN human development index used data collected in 2007 - before the global economic crisis.

Opposites

The UN Development Programme said the index highlighted the grave disparities between rich and poor countries.

Best places to live
Norway
Australia
Iceland

Norway's consistently high rating for desirable living standards, is, in large part, the result of the discovery of offshore oil and gas deposits in the late 1960s.

Niger, however, is a drought-prone country which has sometimes struggled to feed its people.

Other countries to reach the top spots were Australia and Iceland.

However, living standards in Iceland have changed since the data was collected, as it was one of the countries worst hit by the credit crunch.

The 2008 crisis exposed the Icelandic economy's dependence on the banking sector, leaving it particularly vulnerable to collapse. The country's three major banks were nationalised and Iceland had to seek international support in order to stay afloat.

Human Development Report Office deputy director Eva Jespersen told the BBC News website that although the country's now-reduced gross domestic product figure would "pull Iceland down" next year, its high life expectancy rates and commitment to education would "cushion the decline to some degree".

Afghanistan was regarded the second least desirable place to live, just below Sierra Leone in third from bottom place.

The index shows that life expectancy in Niger was 50 years - approximately 30 years shorter than for those living in Norway.

For every dollar earned per person in Niger, $85 was earned in Norway.

Worst places to live
Niger
Afghanistan
Sierra Leone

However, the Democratic Republic of Congo has the poorest people, where the average income per person was $298 per year.

China has become one of the most improved because of rising income levels and life expectancy rates.

The United States is rated as the 13th most desirable place to live, while the UK takes the 21st spot.

The index also showed that half the people in the poorest 24 nations were believed to be illiterate.

The tiny principality of Liechtenstein has the highest GDP per capita at $85,383. Its population is about 35,000.

The report's author, Jeni Klugman, said: "Many countries have experienced setbacks over recent decades, in the face of economic downturns, conflict-related crises and the HIV and Aids epidemic.

"And this was even before the impact of the current global financial crisis was felt."



SEE ALSO
Norway country profile
08 Nov 11 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Niger
07 Apr 11 |  Country profiles
Half of babies 'will live to 100'
02 Oct 09 |  Health
People in Republic 'feel better'
02 Oct 09 |  Northern Ireland
Iceland: Britain's unlikely new enemy
15 Oct 08 |  Magazine

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