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World's Best Countries

13 September, 2010 22:40  Erin Erin

Think your country is the best of the best? The countries which have predominately held wealth and power are shifting and new countries are taking the mantle of best, most powerful, and best quality of life. Newsweek Magazine set out to define what makes a great country.


There are so many things that make a country great, Newsweek decided use the criteria of: health, economic dynamism (the openness of a country's economy and the breadth of its corporate sector), education, political environment, and quality of life.


Average number of years that a person can expect to live was used to determine health. These numbers were taken from the World Health Organization.

Economic Dynamism

Growth in GDP per capita at PPP multiplied by the average of the GDP per Capita growth rate over the last ten years and the GDP per Capita growth rate over the next ten years (numbers taken from CIA World Fact Book and Global Insight). Expressed in incremental US$ of growth per person.


Combined universal score on TIMSS and/ or PISA tests were used to determine academic achievement. For schools that do not administer these tests, an achievement score was imputed by doing a regression of literacy rate (CIA World Factbook) and average years of schooling against the universal score. These calculations sought to capture the overall efficacy of system.

Political Environment

Based on electoral process, political participation, functioning government, freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights the political environment was rated (numbers taken from Freedom House).

A Global Peace Index’s Political Participation rating was also determined by assessing voter participation/turn-out for national elections.

Quality of Life

    This category was rated by several factors concerning inequality.
  • Using the gini coefficient, the degree of inequality in family income is determined.
  • The degree of gender gap was decided by evaluating degree of economic, health, education and political inequality between the sexes (numbers taken from the World Economic Forum).
  • Number of people living in extreme poverty, defined by the percentage of the population living on less than $2/day at 2005 international prices (World Bank) was used.
  • The standard of living was determined by private consumption divided by population.
  • Homicide rate, how many homicides per 100,000 population (numbers taken from UN Office on Drugs and Crime).
  • Degree of Environmental Health determined by air/water pollution and environmental burden of disease on humans (numbers taken from Yale’s Environmental Performance Index).
  • Economic security by rate of unemployment.


The list is also divided into subcategories according to population and income Groups.

Income groups are divided according to 2009 gross national income (GNI) and GNI per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method.

Size groups are based on population:
Large is greater than 50 million
Medium is between 20 to 50 million
Small is less than 20 million

Top 20 Best Countries

1. Finland
Scoring in the top 20 in all 5 categories, Finland ranks at the top of the list as best small country, the best high-income country, and number 1 in education.
Overall Score: 89.40

2. Switzerland
Always near the top of the list, Switzerland is second for both Health and Quality of Life. It also rates as the best health care for a small nation.
Overall Score: 89.31

3. Sweden
First in Political Environment, Sweden also scores highly on Economic Dynamism and Health. The country has been peaceful and neutral with the population extremely active in politics- about 80% of the population votes. The Swedes also have a commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Overall Score: 88.93

4. Australia
Australia rates as the medium sized nation. They have maintained a relatively low unemployment rate and an economy that's one of the healthiest during the global recession. Australia also has some of the best health care for a medium sized nation.
Overall Score: 87.94

5. Luxembourg
Only coming in at 29th in Education, it ranks much higher in the other four categories.
Overall Score: 89.45

6. Norway
Norway's beauty and laid-back atmosphere help distinguish it as the highest quality of life. It has held this title for five years in a row, according to the U.N. Human Development Report.
Overall Score: 87.35

7. Canada
Canada ranks in the top 10 in all of the categories except for economic dynamism where it comes in 11th place.
Overall Score: 87.29

8. Netherlands
For a small country, Netherlands does extremely well. The country scores highest in Political Environment and comes in 3rd place.
Overall Score: 86.10

9. Japan
Ranks as the best large nation. Japan also has some of the most healthy citizens with the average life expectancy of 82. The average woman lives to be nearly 86, making them the longest-living women in the world.
Overall Score: 85.99

10. Denmark
Yet another Scandinavian nation that scores in the top 10 with particularly high scores for Quality of Life and Political Environment.
Overall Score: 85.89

11. USA- Overall Score: 85.51

12. Germany- Overall Score: 84.810

13. New Zealand- Overall Score: 84.23

14. United Kingdom- Overall Score: 83.35

15. South Korea- Overall Score: 83.28

16. France- Overall Score: 83.26

17. Ireland- Overall Score: 83.11

18. Austria- Overall Score: 82.70

19. Belgium- Overall Score: 82.68

20. Singapore- Overall Score: 80.94

10 Countries at the Bottom

91. Senegal- Overall Score: 46.15

92. Yemen- Overall Score: 44.17

93. Tanzania- Overall Score: 43.60

94. Ethiopia- Overall Score: 41.61

95. Mozambique- Overall Score: 40.77

96. Uganda- Overall Score: 40.67

97. Zambia- Overall Score: 40.50

98. Cameroon- Overall Score: 38.63

99. Nigeria- Overall Score: 38.26

100. Burkina Faso- Overall Score: 33.59

Newsweek Article

To see where other countries fall in the list and explore the interactive graph of countries, go to

To find out more about how the results were tabulated, Newsweek methodology.


Erin Ball
Freelance Writer from Seattle



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Australia [Reply]

Australia must be a really nice place to live, also Finland but finish is required!

  chambres d'hotes new york     04 Oct 2010, 20:03