Special Report

25 Best Countries to Live in the World

20. Japan
> Population:
127.0 million
> GNI per capita: $36,927
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.5 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 86.4%

The median age in Japan is 46.5 years, and the life expectancy at birth is 83.5 years, each the highest in the world. While longevity is a consequence of overall good health and economic prosperity, it is also relatively burdensome on the country’s social security system. Japan has the highest old age dependency ratio of countries reviewed, which at 43.6 elderly Japanese people per 100 working-age adults, means that income earned by more than five working age residents is equal to the cost of supporting two elderly residents. While the Japanese school system ranked only moderately well on the Human Development Index, teenage Japanese students fare better on standardized tests than their peers in the vast majority of countries.

19. Luxembourg
> Population:
536,761
> GNI per capita: $58,711
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.7 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 99.9%

With a GNI per capita of $58,711, Luxembourg citizens earn the eighth highest incomes in the world. The small, landlocked country is highly dependent on foreign trade, and the combined value of its exports and imports is about 3.7 times Luxembourg’s $47.7 billion GDP. By this measure, the country is more trade dependent than nearly every other nation in the world.

The nation’s wealth allows its citizens to enjoy a high standard of living. Luxembourg is one of just four nations where the entire adult population has completed at least some secondary schooling. Also, the typical Luxembourg resident can expect to live to be nearly 82 years old, one of the highest life expectancies at birth worldwide.


18. Israel
> Population:

7.8 million
> GNI per capita: $30,676
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.4 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 85.8%

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been in a nearly constant armed conflict with its Arab neighbors. Nevertheless, the Mediterranean country has been able to establish itself as one of the world’s most liveable countries by the standards of the Human Development Index. Reproductive health in the nation is particularly notable. Two women die for every 100,000 live births, the lowest maternal mortality rate of any country other than Belarus. The teen birth rate is similarly low, with just 7.8 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19. To compare, there are 25.4 births per 1,000 teen women across all OECD nations.

While women in the country fare better than many women around the world, there is a relative lack of female participation in the Israeli workforce. Largely as a result, Israel has the highest income inequality of any of the 25 most livable countries. With the wealthiest fifth of Israelis making more than 10 times the income of the poorest fifth, income in Israel is more unevenly distributed than in most advanced economies.

17. Republic of Korea
> Population:
49.5 million
> GNI per capita: $33,890
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.9 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 82.9%

The Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea, is one of the most affluent nations in the world. The small Asian country has also been technically at war for over half a century, as a formal peace agreement was never reached after the Korean War ended in 1953. Partially as a result, South Korea is one of a few advanced nations with military conscription — service is mandatory for all men in the country.

South Korea spends around 4.9% of its GDP on education each year, higher than most nations, but one of the lower allocations compared with other countries at the upper end of the HDI ranking. Despite the low education spending, South Korean teenage students fare better on reading, math, and science exams than their peers in all but a handful of other countries.

16. Iceland
> Population:
333,135
> GNI per capita: $35,182
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.6 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 91.3%

Education is not just the foundation of economic prosperity, but also a key element of personal fulfillment. The ability to acquire knowledge is one of the basic dimensions of human development, according to the report. The typical Icelander will spend 19 years in school, the third highest number of years of expected schooling in the world. The small North Atlantic nation also has a relatively just society, as measured by relatively even income distribution and relative gender equality. Iceland’s Gini coefficient is one of the lowest in the world, and considerably lower than that of the United States. Also, more than two in five seats in Iceland’s parliament are held by women, one of the highest such proportions.