International political organisations count about 193 countries. Which ones set the best examples to the rest of the world? Which ones would we do best to copy, to emulate and to admire for their foresight, hard work and long-term conscience? Which countries would have humanity survive gleaming into a clean, happy, bright future? Who are tardy on humanitarian issues, science or development? Compiling relevant statistics on a wide range of issues, and constructing rankings, I've arrived at a shortlist of countries that beat all the others. Be the best!
|The Best Countries||Q1|
|#1 Sweden||1683 points||x20|
|#2 Denmark||1598 points||x20|
|#3 Netherlands||1572 points||x20|
|#4 Finland||1514 points||x20|
|#5 Germany||1422 points||x21|
|#6 UK||1407 points||x21|
|#7 Canada||1373 points||x19|
|#8 Switzerland||1326 points||x18|
|#9 Norway||1320 points||x17|
|#10 Belgium||1208 points||x19|
|My database-driven algorithm calculates points on the basis of positions and ranks.|
|Top 21 Country & Rank||2006||2005|
The United Nations produces an annual Human Development Report which includes the Human Development Index. The factors taken into account include life expectancy, adult literacy rate, schooling and Gross Domestic Product.
The top 15 results from 2005 are highlighted, to give an idea of the consistency/fluidity of the yearly data produced by the United Nations HDP. Norway has been the top of this list since ousting Canada in 2001.
United Nations Human Development Report, 2005 and 2006. [See bottom of page for more details]
“The Economist Intelligence Unit, in conjunction with an international team of academics and peace experts, has compiled an innovative new Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 121 nations [using] 24 indicators, ranging from a nation´s level of military expenditure to its relations with neighbouring countries and the level of respect for human rights [...], levels of democracy and transparency, education and material wellbeing. The team has used the latest available figures (mainly 2004-06) from a wide range of respected sources.”
Other comments on the creation of the Peace Index:
“The Dalai Lama said that he hoped the index would encourage countries to strive for peace. "Compiling and maintaining an index of which countries are the most peaceful and publishing the results will undoubtedly make the factors and qualities that contribute to that status better known and will encourage people to foster them in their own countries," he said.
Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University, said that such surveys could be useful. "The key thing is to treat it as a trial run," he said. He hoped the team compiling the list would take on board suggestions from other analysts.”
The Guardian (2007)2
Section added to this page 2007 Jun 11.
|Country & Rank||2006||2005|
A study of 115 countries, assessing patterns of inequality by criteria including: Salaries and economic participation, access to better jobs, political empowerment, educational attainment, health and wellbeing. The league was produced by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. "While no country has yet managed to eradicate the gender gap, the Nordic countries have succeeded best in narrowing it and, in a very clear sense, provide a workable model for the rest of the world", the report says. "Switzerland, 34th, is amongst the lowest ranking European states, due to its poor record on higher education for women", whilst the UK came in high for its success on the exact same criteria3. 2005 data is included to provide a sense of how consistent the rankings are on a year to year basis.
Achievement of Women's Right to Vote on an Equal Basis with Men
All other countries, except Saudi Arabia, have now followed suit. Finland and Norway were beaten only by Australia and New Zealand, and Sweden in 1919 was part of the general European rush to female emancipation although not significantly ahead Sweden was certainly not behind in women's voting rights, as Switzerland was; beaten by such countries as Afghanistan, Congo, Iran, Kenya and Morocco all in 19635.
UN HDR 2005.
Life expectancy in years is listed from three sources given titles of 1, 2 and 3.
To come anywhere in the top 20 countries is to be well within in the top 10% countries in the world ranked in terms of life expectancy. Sweden and Norway manage this, Finland comes in lower at 36th.
Life expectancy reflects overall cultural health, including diet, the health services systems, attitudes to exercise and well being, and also family structure and caring. Life expectancy stats are sometimes skewed by taking into account immigration, so that much of the time stats are compiled of natural-born inhabitants only.
Sources for the chart above:
1. "Sociology" by Anthony Giddens (1997) p130
2. 2004 CIA World Factbook
3. 2005 United Nations Human Development Report, Life Expectancy at Birth. I have listed data from other sources to show what varied data exists.
"The survey was prepared for the Economist's "World in 2005" publication, with the remit: "Where will be the best place to live in 2005?" Researchers took into account not just income, but other factors considered important to people's satisfaction and well-being. They included health, freedom, unemployment, family life, climate, political stability and security, gender equality and family and community life."
BBC News (2004 Nov 17)
Sources:1. "Global Competitiveness Report" by the World Economic Forum, Country Rankings 2004-2005.
|Rank - 2004|
This index measures and compares factors such as the access to funds, legal structures and property rights, freedom to trade and the government's regulation of markets. Many countries that normally come in the top ten on this page, such as Finland and the Netherlands (12th), Denmark (17th), Sweden (24th) and Norway (30th), do not perform as well on this criteria. 130 countries are compared.
Economic Freedom Network, 2006 publication of result from 1970-2004. www.freetheworld.com.
Sweden in 1987 was first country to make steps towards full gay marriage, with a system of registered partnerships which specifically allowed gay partners to marry. Followed by Norway in 1993 which granted almost full legal equality for gay partnerships. Iceland, the Netherlands, the USA, Spain, Canada, Denmark and France throughout the 1990s made similar steps, frequently on a very cautious state-by-state basis. Finland, still showing itself to be advanced, followed suit in 2002 but many countries have not yet got the state of tolerance that allows gay equality. As such, all countries listed above will one day be recognized as world-leaders in equality and compassion with respects to gay rights. Some countries, especially those with powerful active Christian or Muslim interest groups, find tolerance difficult and the USA has recently been taking steps backwards.
|% Population Obese|
Finland may be more obese than France or Poland, the statistics are not clear. Statistics are only generally available and sensible for developed countries. After these countries come, in turn: Iceland, Spain, Estonia, Austria, Ireland, Latvia, Czech, Canada, Lithuania, Australia, Luxembourg and Hungary. With a percentage of obesity of over 20% follow Portugal, Slovakia, Germany, UK, Mexico, Cyprus and Malta, with the USA breaking into the 30s. There are no statistics given for Australia (known to be surprisingly obese), and many other countries especially non European ones. Data is taken from the latest reports, 2000, 2001 or 2002.
The International Association for the Study of Obesity publishes reports into childhood obesity, the following chart was published in the British Medical Journal on their data on international overweight rates amongst 10-16 year old children.
The red portions highlight the numbers of children who are actually obese and not merely overweight. The dangers of childhood obesity are great, and their effects become a heavy burden on societal health and welfare spending. The numbers have continued to increase drastically since 2000/2001.
Countries that feature regularly on this page which have very low levels of childhood overweightness include the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland, followed by Sweden, Germany and France.
OECD Health Data 2004, 3rd edition
"International Obesity Task Force", an EU Platform Briefing Paper "on Diet, Physical Activity and Health".
British Medical Journal (2005)6.
Definition: Percentage of adults whose level of document literacy is rated 'high'. Data for 1998.
All developed countries that appear on the top of these comparisons have a very high literacy rate (99% or 100%), with the exception of the USA which has 97%. It is difficult to factor in immigrations effect on literacy statistics, so I haven't included such stats and would be wary doing so even if the results weren't so close! As a result, I have had to use the data for high literacy.
Source: NationMaster.com with OECD as source
|Sustainability Index Attainment (%)|
For each country, the number of companies in the Sustainability Index was divided by the number of companies in the Global Index. This gives the percent of eligible countries in the index.
Source: nationmaster.com: Assessment of the Country Allocation of the Dow Jones Sustainability Group Index, SAM SustainabilityGroup via ciesin.org.
|% waste recycled or composted or other:|
The Guardian (2005)7.
The top ten countries ranked by free open access to research archives relative to population.
Open Access speeds up the worldwide application of scientific research and allows theories and results to be tested, checked and analysed to scientists across the world, leading to more reliable science, data, technology for everyone.
Obviously quite a difficult piece of data to get meaningful results from. Absolute immigration level isn't useful as it is beyond most countries control where asylum seekers try to get, or end up at. The acceptance rate is going to be affected by tolerance and politics mostly, but also by the level of checks done and by what countries the recipient country considers to be areas of emergency, political instability or danger from which asylum seekers may need to escape from. I wanted to also look at refugee stats, but they are largely the same so just the one set of data will suffice. Sweden, in fourth place, is "a common destination for refugees and asylum seekers - over 10% of its population are immigrants."5, but, has had few problems with integration even though 30 years ago it was mostly homogenous5, with few outsiders.
I refer here to two main reports, as they are referenced on the full page linked in the box on the right:
The CGD report's analysis overlaps with the UNs, so I have not used them side-by-side (for example, both compare countries aid as a relation of their economy), I have used the UN report for 2005, and the CGD report for 2006.
“The chart on the right shows the amount of aid given to developing countries. It is shown as percent of the Gross National Income, so it includes both aid given by corporations and by individuals. The Report notes how the countries of the G7 - the richest industrial countries - dominate the global aid flow. It also notes how the most generous five countries, all above the UNs target of 0.7% GNI, are all small countries - Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands who have all "consistently met or surpassed the UN target". Japan has only recently fallen to such a low position (third from the bottom), nearly as stingy as the USA..
The United Nations Report analyses how to make aid-giving worthwhile and usable and does not just concentrate on quantity of aid. There are factors which reduce the usability of aid, including corruption and unpredictability of aid quantities. Yet, "perhaps the most egregious undermining of efficient aid is the practice of tying financial transfers to the purchase of services and goods from the donating countries." This kind of "tied" aid is selfish and counterproductive.
The most generous countries are also the ones that do not tend to tie aid to their own products and services. The stingiest countries also, almost spitefully and nastily, force countries to buy their own services and products with the aid they give; which reduces free trade and commerce and harms the countries economy, as well as being simply selfish and conceited. Thankfully, many countries do not tie their aid. Countries that tie less than 10% of aid include Ireland, Norway and the UK, then Belgium, Finland, Switzerland and Sweden. The USA is the worst, and ties nearly 90% of its aid to developing countries. Italy is the second worst with 70%. The two worst countries for this obnoxious practice in aid-giving are also the two countries out of the most developed countries, who give least generously!
The Center for Global Development compared the 21 richest nations, measuring a broad range of factors and policies to arrive at their values. "The CGD's measures a broad number of factors for the index, rather than merely the amount of aid countries provide. It also examines several policy areas - such as trade investment migration and environment - while aid is measured not only in terms of quantity but as a share of its income and the quality of aid given ".
The index penalized countries for selling arms to undemocratic governments (the theory being that these harm 'the poor'). The CGD came to same conclusions as the United Nations' Human Development Report on US aid being 'tied' to US commercial goods.”
“Since it was first launched in 2001, the Global Information Technology Report has become a valuable and unique benchmarking tool to determine national ICT strengths and weaknesses, and to evaluate progress. It also highlights the continuing importance of ICT application and development for economic growth.
The Report uses the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), covering a total of 115 economies in 2005-2006, to measure the degree of preparation of a nation or community to participate in and benefit from ICT developments.”
Source: World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report (2005-6)Q:122
The percent of software that is pirated.
“According to the Business Software Alliance, a trade association, and IDC, a market-research firm. 97 countries were investigated.”
Official statistics tend to distort the real numbers of religious adherents, so the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of 44 countries to find out what percentage considered their religion to be important.
This data supports 'Secularisation Theory': That the more developed countries are less religious. In other words: Religion declines as society advances. As such, points were awarded for lack of religion. The USA is the only developed OECD country to appear above 50%.
I would expect Chinese religion to be on a part with Russian (due to the historical role of Communism in suppressing religion in both countries). The Nordic states would probably appear with 20-30% religiosity.
The Best Country in the World! Listed as the 6th best country in the United Nations Human Development Report 2005. Sweden in 1919 was part of the general European rush towards female emancipation, although it was not a world leader in equal votes for women it was still one of the first 10% of the world to arrive there. In modern times, Sweden has the best record for gender equality across a range of issues. It has the worlds' sixth highest life expectancy. The Economist Quality of Life study states that Sweden is the fifth best place to live. From 2001 to the 2003-2004 and 2006 reports, the World Economic Forum has shown Sweden is consistently the third most economically competitive country. Its government was the first, in 1987, to recognize same sex partnerships. One of the least obese countries (10.4% of the population, perhaps 8th least obese in the developed world). Sweden has the best 'high literacy' rate in the world, and not just by a small margin! For a developed country, Swedes do not smoke much and do not drink much; both far less than Western averages. Sweden ranks top in allowing open access to scientific research. In 2005, out of the worlds' most developed countries, Sweden was fourth most generous in giving aid to developing countries, and in 2006 was the 3rd best country for the poor. It has the 7th lowest level of computer software piracy. Transparency International finds Sweden to be the joint fourth for lack of corruption.
Only listed as 14th in the world by the United Nations Human Development Report, Denmark is nonetheless a consistent high-ranker in many of the moral issues examined on this page. The World Economic Forum lists Denmark as the 4th most equal country in terms of gender, and was beaten by only four other countries in the historical granting of equal votes to women. The Economist's World in 2005 survey had Denmark rank as the ninth best country for quality of life. The fourth most competitive economy. Gay rights were attained in the 1990s, beaten only by a handful of states. One of the least obese countries in the world. The 3rd best country in the world for high adult literacy. One of the best countries towards the environment; one of the best recyclers. Open Access to scientific research speeds up scientific discovery and advances humanity, Denmark is the 7th most open country in the world. When it comes to accepting asylum seekers, Denmark accepts more than anyone else (74%). It also gives aid third most generously, and does not tie its aid in to its own economy. The Center for Global Development says that Denmark is the second best country at helping the poor of the world. Denmark has the fifth lowest rate of computer software piracy. Transparency International rates Denmark as (jointly) the least corrupt country.
Impressively listed as the best country in the United Nations Human Development Report every year since 2001. The fourth country to allow women the same voting rights as men, in 1913 and coming in 2nd best in the world for gender equality overall. The 12th best life expectancy in the world. The third best country to live in for quality of life. One of the world's most economically competitive countries, coming in annually around 6th (2003-2004) and 12th (2006). It was the second country to officially recognize same-sex marriages, granting almost full legal equality for gay partnerships in 1993. Impressively Norway is the fourth least obese developed nation in the world, only 8.3% of the population are obese. Norway has the second highest high literacy level in the world, second only to Sweden. Norway gives a higher percentage of its National Income as foreign aid than does any other country, and was the 4th best country for the poor in 2006.
Listed as the 13th best country in the United Nations Human Development Report 2005. One of the first countries to give women equal votes with men, beaten only by New Zealand and Australia in 1893 and 1902 respectively. Judging by a range of criteria Finland is in modern times the fifth best country for gender equality. 19th best life expectancy. The most economically competitive country according to the 2001, 2003, and 2004-5 reports from the World Economic Forum (and 2nd place to Switzerland in 2006), with the USA as their hottest contender and previous title-holder. Finland was not one of the first countries where legal equality for homosexuals were attained, but in 2002 it is still ahead the majority of the countries in the world that have not yet got there. Perhaps one of the least obese countries, 10th or so in the developed world. Finland is the fourth best country in the world for high literacy. Open access to scientific research is beneficial to humanity; Finland is the sixth most open country in the world. The 7th best country for the world's poor, in 2006. It has the 4th lowest computer software piracy rate. Transparency International rates Denmark as (jointly) the least corrupt country.
By Vexen Crabtree 2005-2007
(Last Modified: 2013 Jun 17)
Parent page: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life
The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source.
(1997) Sociology. Hardback 3rd edition. First edition was 1989. Published by Polity Press in association with Blackwell Publishers Ltd. The Amazon link is to a newer version.
United Nations Human Development Report (UNHDR)
Published annually in association with the UN Development Program. Downloadable PDF files can be found:
2005: hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2005/pdf/HDR05_complete.pdf (6MB). File accessed 2005 Sep 16.
2006: hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/pdfs/report/HDR06-complete.pdf (8MB). Accessed 2006 Nov 24.