Norway is the best place in the world to live followed by Australia and the Netherlands, according to an annual index produced by the United Nations.

These three countries lead the world in the 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) which measures health, education, gender equality and political freedom, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Burundi are at the bottom.

The United States, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Sweden round out the top 10 countries in the 2011 HDI, but when the Index is adjusted for internal inequalities in health, education and income, some of the wealthiest nations drop out of the HDI’s top 20.

The United States falls from fourth to twenty third, the Republic of Korea from fifteenth to thirty second and Israel from seventeenth to twenty fifth. The United States and Israel drop in the Report’s Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI) mainly because of income inequality, though health care is also a factor in the US ranking change, while wide education gaps between generations detract from the Republic of Korea’s IHDI performance.

Other top national achievers rise in the IHDI due to greater relative internal equalities in health, education and income. Sweden jumps from tenth to fifth, Denmark climbs from sixteenth to twelfth and Slovenia rises from twenty first to fourteenth.

The IHDI and two other composite indices, the Multidimensional Poverty Index and the Gender Inequality Index, were designed to complement the Human Development Report’s HDI, which is based on national averages in schooling, life expectancy, and per capita income.

The 2011 HDI covers a record 187 countries and territories, up from 169 in 2010, reflecting in part improved data availability for many small island states of the Caribbean and the Pacific. The 2011 country rankings are therefore not comparable to the 2010 Report’s HDI figures, the authors note.
‘The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index helps us assess better the levels of development for all segments of society, rather than for just the mythical average person,’ said Milorad Kovacevic, chief statistician for the Human Development Report.

‘We consider health and education distribution to be just as important in this equation as income, and the data show great inequities in many countries,’ he added.
The 2011 report notes that income distribution has worsened in most of the world, with Latin America remaining the most unequal region in income terms, even though several countries including Brazil and Chile are narrowing internal income gaps. Yet in overall IHDI terms, including life expectancy and schooling, Latin America is more equitable than sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, the Report shows.

The 10 countries that place last in the 2011 HDI are all in sub-Saharan Africa: Guinea, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Chad, Mozambique, Burundi, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Gender Inequality Index (GII) shows that Sweden leads the world in gender equality, as measured by this composite index of reproductive health, years of schooling, parliamentary representation, and participation in the labour market. Sweden is followed in the gender inequality rankings by the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Germany, Singapore, Iceland and France.

Yemen ranks as the least equitable of the 146 countries in the GII, followed by Chad, Niger, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Liberia, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone.