Special Report

The 10 Most Livable Countries

7. New Zealand
> Human Development Index score: 0.910
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $32,569 (30th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.1 years (17th highest)
> Expected years of schooling: 19.4 years (2nd highest)

A typical New Zealander starting school in 2012 was expected to receive more than 19 years of education, higher than in every country except for neighboring Australia, and perhaps an indication of the country’s strong education system. New Zealand invested 7.2% of its GDP on education in 2012, one of the highest expenditures worldwide. And while spending does not always yield strong outcomes, New Zealand students consistently performed above-average on international assessment tests. Like most livable countries, New Zealand residents also enjoy one of the world’s highest life expectancies. A newborn was expected to live more than 81 years as of last year.

6. Germany
> Human Development Index score: 0.911
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $43,049 (14th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.7 years (20th highest)
> Expected years of schooling: 16.3 years (18th highest)

Germany has one of the largest economies in the world, with a gross domestic product of close to $3.4 trillion in 2012. German adults over 25 hdd an average of nearly 13 years of schooling as of 2012, the most in the world. Germany is also among the countries that offer a pension to 100% of the population that is of statutory retirement age. However, with the population aging, the retirement age is set to gradually rise from 65 to 67 by 2029. The country requires both employees and their employers to together contribute roughly 40% of a worker’s gross wages towards pension insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and other elements of the German social safety net.

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5. United States
> Human Development Index score: 0.914
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $52,308 (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.9 years (36th highest)
> Expected years of schooling: 16.5 years (13th highest)

The United States has the world’s biggest economy, with a GDP of nearly $16 trillion in 2012, and a gross national income per capita of $52,308, among the highest in the world. Despite the large economy, Americans struggle with income and gender inequality. Between 2003 and 2012, the United States had a Gini coefficient — a measure of income inequality — far worse than that of other most livable countries. Also, despite spending nearly 18% of its GDP on health care in 2011, more than all but two other countries, the United States lags behind other most livable countries in life expectancy. Americans’ life expectancy at birth was 78.9 years last year, the lowest on this list. Nevertheless, the country offers some of the best opportunities — in education, science, business, and arts — that Americans can readily enjoy.