Monday, October 5, 2009
PARIS (AFP) – Norway takes the number one spot in the annual United Nations human development index released Monday but China has made the biggest strides in improving the well-being of its citizens.
The index compiled by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) ranks 182 countries based on such criteria as life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
Norway, Australia and Iceland took the first three spots while Niger ranks at the very bottom, just below Afghanistan.
China moved up seven places on the list to rank as the 92nd most developed country due to improvements in education as well as income levels and life expectancy.
Colombia and Peru rose five spaces to rank 77th and 78th while France -- which was not part of the top 10 last year -- returns to the upper echelons by moving up three places to number 8.
The UNDP said the index highlights the grave disparities between rich and poor countries.
A child born in Niger can expect to live to just over 50, which is 30 years less than a child born in Norway. For every dollar a person earns in Niger, 85 dollars are earned in Norway.
This year's index was based on data from 2007 and does not take into account the impact of the global economic crisis.
"Many countries have experienced setbacks over recent decades, in the face of economic downturns, conflict-related crises and the HIV and AIDS epidemic," said the UN development report's author Jeni Klugman.
"And this was even before the impact of the current global financial crisis was felt."
Afghanistan, which returns to the list for the first time since 1996, is the only Asian country among the bottom ten which also include Sierra Leone in the 180th spot, just below the Central African Republic.
The top ten countries listed on the index are: Norway, Australia, Iceland, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Switzerland and Japan.
The United States ranks 13th, down one spot from last year.