Special Report

The 10 Least Livable Countries

519051699Based on the most recent release of the Human Development Index by the United Nations Development Programme, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most and least livable countries. Data from the Human Development Index is based on three dimensions of human progress — having a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having a good standard of living. According to the index, Norway is the most livable country in the world, while Niger is the least livable.

One factor that influences a country’s development is its income. The U.N. used gross national income in its calculation of the Human Development Index to reflect the standard of living in a country. In the most developed countries, gross income per capita is generally quite high. All of the world’s 10 most livable countries had among the top 30 gross national incomes per person. The top-rated country, Norway, had the world’s sixth highest gross national income per capita of $63,909.

At the other end of the spectrum, the world’s least developed countries typically had very low incomes. Six of these 10 least livable nations were among the bottom 10 countries by gross national income per capita. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had the lowest gross national income per capita in the world, at just $444 last year, was the second least developed country worldwide.

Similarly, these countries also generally had extremely high percentage of their populations living on just $1.25 a day or less, adjusted for purchasing power. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi, more than 80% of the population lived on less than $1.25 per day.

Click here to see the 10 most livable countries

Click here to see the 10 least livable countries

Life expectancies, another factor considered in the Human Development Index, were also far better in highly developed nations. Switzerland, Australia, and Singapore were all among the top rated countries with life expectancies greater than 82 years for individuals born in 2013. By this metric, the United States is a relative laggard. The median life expectancy at birth in the U.S. of 78.9 years was ranked just 38th worldwide.

For individuals born in the world’s least developed nations, the average life expectancy was far lower. In all but one of these nations, a person born in 2013 had a life expectancy of less than 60 years. Sierra Leone, the fifth-lowest ranked nation, had the worst life expectancy, at just 45.6 years.

Sadly, among the factors contributing to these low life expectancies are, almost certainly, high mortality rates for infants and young children. Sierra Leone, which had the lowest life expectancy, also had the highest mortality rates for infants and children under five, at 117 deaths and 182 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Education also plays a role in determining development. In all but one of the most developed countries, residents aged 25 and older spent an average of more than 12 years in school. By contrast, in all of the world’s least developed countries, adult residents had less than four years of education on average.

The most and least developed nations also tend to be clustered geographically. Five of the 10 most developed countries are located in Europe. All of the least developed nations, on the other hand, are located in Africa, where political turmoil, health crises, and lack of infrastructure are far more common.

Despite their low scores, however, several of the world’s least developed nations have worked towards improving their economies in recent years, and their Human Development Index scores have improved as well. Mozambique is perhaps the best example. While it is still the 10th lowest rated nation, its score had risen by 2.5% per year between 2000 and 2013, faster than almost all other countries globally. Burundi’s score also rose substantially, by 2.3% per year in that time.

To identify the most and least developed nations, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the latest Human Development Index figures published by the U.N. The index included three dimensions made up of select metrics. The health dimension incorporated life expectancy at birth. The education dimension was based on the average and expected years of schooling, for adults 25 and older and newly-enrolled children, respectively. The standard of living dimension was determined by gross national income per capita. We also considered other statistics published by the U.N. alongside the index, including inequality measures, mortality measures, poverty rates, and expenditures on health and education as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). All data are for the most recent period available.

These are the least livable countries.

10. Mozambique
> Human Development Index score: 0.393
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $1,011 (7th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 50.3 years (6th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 9.5 years (30th lowest)

Mozambique is one of the world’s least livable countries, with the 10th lowest rating on the 2013 Human Development Index. Mozambique had one of the world’s shortest life expectancies as of last year, at just over 50 years, as well as one of the lowest levels of gross national income per capita, just barely $1,000. Further, the vast majority of adult men and women in the country do not have even some secondary education, while nearly 60% of people lived on $1.25 a day. Still, in recent years, life in Mozambique has improved. Its score on the Human Development Index has increased by nearly 2.5% per year since 2000, among the fastest rates in the world. And although the political situation in the country is concerning, the African Development Bank describes the Mozambique economy as “one of the most dynamic on the continent.”

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9. Guinea
> Human Development Index score: 0.392
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $1,142 (10th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 56.1 years (19th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 8.7 years (18th lowest)

The current Ebola outbreak is said to have begun in Guinea this past December. The number of reported Ebola cases rises daily, and over 900 people in the country have died. While Guinea suffers from political instability and a slowing growth rate — GDP growth dropped by nearly half last year — there are signs the economy will recover. Improvements within the country’s agricultural industry and electrical infrastructure, for example, are projected to boost growth next year, according to the African Development Bank. Guinea residents still face considerable challenges. As of 2012, 42% of infants were not immunized against measles, a leading cause of death among children worldwide. And adolescent pregnancy is especially common, with 131 pregnancies per 1,000 women 15-19 years old reported in 2010, a higher rate than in all but a handful of countries reviewed.

8. Burundi
> Human Development Index score: 0.389
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $749 (4th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 54.1 years (12th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 10.1 years (33rd lowest)

Burundians have among the lowest per capita gross incomes in the world, at just $749 in 2013, behind only three other nations. More than 81% of the population of the country lived on less than $1.25 per day, one of the highest rates, and the life expectancy for newborns was among the world’s worst last year. Just 11.5% of the Burundi population lived in an urban area last year, making it the least urbanized country in the world. However, Burundi is still among the most densely populated countries in Africa. According to KfW Development Bank, due to Burundi’s rapidly growing population, “an ever increasing number of people need drinking water, sanitation, electricity, roads, schools and hospitals, yet the state is not able to adequately meet this demand for social infrastructure.”

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7. Burkina Faso
> Human Development Index score: 0.388
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $1,602 (22nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 56.3 years (20th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 7.5 years (7th lowest)

The economy of Burkina Faso is predominantly dependent on agriculture and mining, with cotton and gold among its major exports. Burkina Faso had one of the lowest life expectancies at birth in the world, at just over 56 years as of 2013. Additionally, with a population largely dependant on subsistence agriculture, Burkinabes had a gross national income of just $1,602 per capita last year. As of 2012, adults had an average of just 1.3 years of schooling, the lowest in the world. Children entering school in 2012 could expect to receive just 7.5 years of education, one of the lowest levels in the world. More than 39% of children between the ages of five and 14 worked, one of the highest rates in the world.

6. Eritrea
> Human Development Index score: 0.381
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $1,147 (11th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 62.9 years (40th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 4.1 years (the lowest)

Eritrea established independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after an armed conflict that lasted decades. Eritrea has been called The North Korea of Africa by some because of its repressive, autocratic, and militarized regime. The country lacks an independent media and residents can be conscripted into the military for indefinite lengths of time. As of 2013, the gross national income in Eritrea was just $1,147 per capita, among the lowest in the world. Health spending was also among the lowest in the world, at just 2.6% of GDP, and residents paid more than half of all costs out of pocket. Expenditure on education was similarly low relative to most countries, at just 2.1% of GDP.

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5. Sierra Leone
> Human Development Index score: 0.374
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $1,815 (27th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 45.6 years (the lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 7.5 years (8th lowest)

Sierra Leone was once famous for its “blood diamonds,” which were mined in the country and sold to fund weapons purchases by rebels during the nation’s civil war. Since the war ended in 2002, Sierra Leone has made strides towards political stability and economic development. However,the country remains relatively undeveloped. No country has a lower life expectancy at birth than SIerra Leone, at just 45.6 years in 2013. The maternal mortality rate, at 890 deaths per 100,000 live births, was also among the world’s worst. The infant mortality rate, at 117 deaths per 1,000 live births, was the worst in the world. Tragically, Sierra Leone has been among the countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases and more than 1,200 deaths from the disease.

4. Chad
> Human Development Index score: 0.372
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $1,622 (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 51.2 years (8th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 7.4 years (6th lowest)

Chad’s economy is heavily concentrated in oil production. However, the country’s development has been hindered by conflicts within Chad, as well as a difficult relationship with neighboring Sudan, which Chad has accused of harboring rebels. The country is among the least urbanized in the world. Just 22% of people in the country lived in an urban environment as of 2013. Chad is also projected to be the world’s youngest nations, with a median age of just 15.9 years in 2015. The life expectancy for a Chadian born last year was just over 51 years, among the lowest life expectancies in the world. And with 89 deaths per 1,000 live births, the country also had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world in 2010.

3. Central African Republic
> Human Development Index score: 0.341
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $588 (2nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 50.2 years (5th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 7.2 years (4th lowest)

The Central African Republic has been in the midst of a severe crisis in recent years. Last year, armed rebels seized the capital and took over the government of the country. Unrest has continued since then. According to the African Development Bank, “Every state and public institution has been affected by the crisis and the State has effectively collapsed.” The U.S. State Department currently warns all Americans against travelling to Central African Republic and notes that violence in the country is widespread. Unlike the many African countries that have made substantial progress in improving their Human Development Index scores, the Central African Republic has not. Few countries have a lower life expectancy or higher rates of infant and child mortality than Central African Republic. The country also spends very little on health care, and it had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, at 890 deaths per 100,000 live births, in 2010.

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2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
> Human Development Index score: 0.338
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $444 (the lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 50.0 years (4th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 9.7 years (31st lowest)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo had the world’s lowest gross national income per capita, at just $444 last year. Additionally, more than 87% of the population lived on less than $1.25 a day, the highest rate in the world. Like a number of other least-developed nations, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had extremely high infant and child mortality rates. As of 2012, the infant mortality rate was 100 deaths per 1,000 live births, the second worst in the world. The country is also by far the largest among the world’s least livable, with a population of 67.5 million as of last year. The country was the site of one of the most brutal conflicts in recent world history from 1998 through 2003, and violent conflicts have continued to flare up since then.

1. Niger
> Human Development Index score: 0.337
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $873 (6th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 58.4 years (24th lowest)
> Expected years of schooling: 5.4 years (2nd lowest)

No country scored lower on the Human Development Index than Niger. A student entering school in 2012 could only be expected to study for 5.4 years on average, less than any country except Eritrea. Also, nearly 43% of those between the ages of five to 14 worked, one of the highest rates in the world. Slavery, although criminalized, remains a problem in the country. Niger also had the highest adolescent birth rate in the world, with nearly 205 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 in 2010. Further, less than a third of people 15 and older were literate. According to the World Bank, Niger suffers from chronic food insecurity due to “political instability and natural crises – notably droughts, floods and locust infestation.”

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