5 Nov 2010

NZ third in world for quality of life - UN

9:22 am on 5 November 2010

The United Nations says New Zealand rates third in the world for quality of life, behind Norway and Australia.

The UN's annual survey aims to give a broader assessment of quality of life than just income - by including, health, education, gender equality and political freedom.

Norway - with its 81 years of life expectancy and average annual income of $US58,810 - has topped the Human Development Index (HDI) for all but two years since 2001.

In individual categories, Liechtenstein was top in average income with $US81,011 and life expectancy in Japan is 83.6 years.

While Norway doesn't come top in any of the individual categories, its all-round performance gives it superiority in the 20th annual rankings on the UN Development Program (UNDP).

Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland, in order, also made the top five.

Zimbabwe came in last among the 169 nations ranked, behind Mozambique, Burundi, Niger and Democratic Republic of Congo.

In stark contrast to the leaders, in Zimbabwe life expectancy is just 47 years and per capita income $US176.

DR Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe are the only countries to see their HDI value fall below 1970 levels.

UNDP chief, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke, says these countries offer lessons on the devastating impact of conflict, the AIDS epidemic and economic and political mismanagement.

The nations which have risen most up the rankings in recent decades include "growth miracles" such as China, which has risen eight places in the last five years to 89th, Indonesia and South Korea.

East Asia and the Pacific had by far the strongest overall performance of any region over the past 40 years - twice the average worldwide progress.

Even though incomes have grown dramatically, poor nations are not making the same economic strides as they are in health and education.

The report concludes rich countries have grown faster than poor ones over the past 40 years.