THE UK has been ranked a worse place to live in terms of health, education and income than much of the rest of Europe, the United States, Australia and Hong Kong.
Spain, Italy, Slovenia and the Czech Republic all came higher than the UK in this year’s Human Development Index ranking by the United Nations.
The UN uses a country’s life expectancy, wealth and education levels to calculate a score for human development, and the UK came in at 28th place out of 187 countries.
Oil-rich Norway was ranked the best place to live, with its ninth top placement in 11 years. Norwegians have a life expectancy of 80.4 years, spend an average of 12 years at school and have a gross national income of £21,776 per person.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, struggling after more than a decade of war, came bottom of the list, in 187th place.
People there have a life expectancy of 48.4 years, spend an average of 3.5 years at school and have a gross national income of £175 per person.
The UK was among a group described as having “very high human development”, with a life expectancy of 80.2 years, a gross national income of £20,807 per person and an average of 9.3 years at school. The time spent at school was an average of the number of years of education received by people aged 25 and over and would include those from older generations who would have left school at a far younger age than today’s children. However, Australia, which was ranked second, the US, in fourth and Ireland, in seventh place, were all given higher scores than Britain.
Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, who launched the report yesterday, said: “Providing opportunities and choices for all is the central goal of human development. We have a collective responsibility towards the least privileged among us today and in the future around the world — and a moral imperative to ensure that the present is not the enemy of the future.”
Rankings were also adjusted for inequality within a country. When inequality in terms of education, health and gender were taken into account, the US dropped from fourth place to 23rd. However, the UK rose by four places to 24th.
“The 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.
The ten lowest scoring countries were all in sub-Saharan Africa: Guinea, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Chad, Mozambique, Burundi, Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The UN warned in its report, Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All, that development in the world’s poorest countries could be halted or even reversed by the middle of the century unless steps are taken to slow climate change, environmental damage and reduce inequalities within nations.