Once again Norway has taken the honour of being named best country in the world to live in, heading off Australia and Iceland to win for the second consecutive year. The Norway post announced the accolade, which is based on the United Nations Development Index. The top three places remained unchanged from 2008 and the top ten featured only one change as France reappeared at number 8 at the expense of Luxembourg.
The rankings consider life expectancy, education standards and GNP (gross national product) per person.
The Nordic countries again dominated the Index with all being named in the top 20; Sweden was 7th, Finland 12th and Denmark edged into 16th position.
Niger was named worst country to live in, with Afghanistan and Sierra Leone completing the bottom three. The sub-Saharan African states were all near the bottom of the Index as many countries in the region continue to be plagued by warfare and HIV/AIDS.
The contrast in life expectancy between developed nations and the developing countries was again a stark reminder of lack of global progress. The recession has also been blamed for poorer countries continuing to suffer; but its effects are not seen in the latest Index as the figures were gathered in 2007.
Life expectancy in Norway is around 30 years longer than Niger while GNP was 85 times higher. The Japanese were found to live longest, an average 82.7 years, whereas war-torn Afghanistan expectancy was just 43.6 years. The DR Congo saw the lowest average income with each person receiving under USD 300 per year, around 80 cents a day whilst Liechtenstein averaged USD 85,383 per person GDP.
Of the few countries to gain places on the Index, France, Columbia, Peru, Venezuela and China all did so due to increased earnings and greater life expectancy. According to the UN, human development has grown by around 15 percent in the past thirty years.