ABC News November 03, 2011 20:12:41
Australia is the second best place in the world to live according to the United Nations, with Norway taking the title by a fraction in the annual Human Development Index (HDI).
The index compares 187 countries on factors including health, education, per-capita income and life expectancy.
Australia attained a scorecard of 93 out of a possible 100, followed by the Netherlands in third.
“By some measures we have a longer life expectancy than any other country except Japan, and that’s the main thing that lifts Australia higher up in these rankings than we would be if the only consideration was per-capita income,” he said.
“But overall, the combination of per-capita income, which has done well in Australia compared with other countries more seriously affected by the financial crisis, long life expectancy and reasonable levels of educational attainment have been enough to lift us into second place on this scale – in fact we’ve been there for a few years now.”
Mr Eslake says a large part of Norway’s income comes from oil.
He says that although Australia is deriving a good deal from its mineral wealth, the nation’s mining sector makes up a smaller proportion of GDP when compared to Norway’s petroleum sector.
“Oil has been trading at particularly high prices over the last three or four years,” he said.
“Norway of course has also been saving a good deal of its oil-related wealth in the form of a sovereign wealth fund that now holds more than $400 billion in it, whereas Australia hasn’t chosen to save much of its mineral wealth in the same way.
“Norway also has very high levels of educational attainment – more so than Australia – and although its life expectancy isn’t quite as high as Australia’s, it is pretty close.”
War-torn and poverty-stricken African nations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Burundi were at the bottom of the list.
The lucky country
Mr Eslake says the report does not capture what constitutes a country’s liveability, but it does show why Australia is referred to as the lucky country.
“It ought to serve as a reminder that for all the complaints everyday Australians have about different aspects of their lives, this is one of the best countries in the world in which to live and to bring up children,” he said.
The index forms part of the UN Development Report, and this year it is focused on environment, sustainability and inequality.
Dermot O’Gorman is the chief executive of World Wildlife Fund in Australia.
“The report suggests that by 2050 under an environmentally challenged scenario, that we could see an 8 per cent lower global HDI from a baseline,” he said.
“That’s quite a scary thought if you think that we’ve lived over the last 50 years in a growth scenario, to think that that may go back and that sustainability is a critical part or reason of that.”
The UN report concludes that despite remarkable progress in human development over recent decades, it will not continue without addressing environmental risks and inequality.