Iceland Best Place to Live, Africa Worst: UN

Patrick Worsnip, Reuters, November 27, 2007

Iceland has overtaken Norway as the world’s most desirable country to live in, according to an annual U.N. table published on Tuesday that again puts AIDS-afflicted sub-Saharan African states at the bottom.

Rich free-market countries dominate the top places, with Iceland, Norway, Australia, Canada and Ireland the first five but the United States slipping to 12th place from eighth last year in the U.N. Human Development Index.

But the index, blending 2005 figures for life expectancy, educational levels and real per capita income, finds that all 22 countries falling into its “low human development” category are in sub-Saharan Africa, with Sierra Leone last.

In 10 of these countries, two children in five will not reach the age of 40, said the compilers at the U.N. Development Program. Last year’s report said HIV/AIDS had had a “catastrophic effect” on life expectancy in the region.

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Norway had held top spot for six years but was edged into second place by Iceland this year because of new life expectancy estimates and updated figures for gross domestic product, or GDP, the report said.

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The United States scores high on real per capita GDP, which at $41,890 is second only to that of Luxembourg ($60,228), but less well on life expectancy—joint last in the top 26 countries, along with Denmark and South Korea, at 77.9 years.

Japanese have the longest life expectancy—82.3 years—and Zambians the lowest, at 40.5.

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