15. United Kingdom
> Population: 63.5 million
> GNI per capita: $39,267
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.7 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 99.9%
The United Kingdom is one of the largest and oldest economies in the world. With a GDP of $2.4 trillion, the UK is the ninth largest economy in the world. Britain was the first industrialized nation. Since then, like other advanced post-industrial economies, it has transitioned to a largely service-based economy. Roughly 80% of the country’s workforce is employed in the service sector, in jobs from retail to nursing to tax preparation. Such jobs typically require more education and pay far higher wages compared to jobs more common in emerging markets — in the agriculture sector, for example. The higher incomes, as well as perhaps the less physically strenuous labor associated with the service sector, also contribute to longer lives. A typical British resident can expect to live around 81 years, one of the higher life expectancies at birth worldwide.
> Population: 9.6 million
> GNI per capita: $45,636
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.2 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 86.9%
Nations with a greater degree of gender equality are likely to have a better quality of life, not just for the country’s female occupants but for the population as a whole. Based on access to government positions, Sweden is one of the more gender-equal nations, with women holding 43.6% of seats. In the vast majority of nations reviewed, including the United States, women hold less than one in four seats in the legislature. The country’s gender equality also manifests in its policies. For example, the country has had gender-neutral parental leave for decades. In order to encourage fathers to use it as well, the country began offering financial incentives to take the leave. Sweden also has one of the smallest gender wage gaps in the world.
Also, like other Nordic nations, the life expectancy at birth in Sweden is one of the longest in the world. An individual born in the country can expect to live more than 82 years.
> Population: 37,194
> GNI per capita: $79,851
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: N/A
Landlocked between Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein is a principality of only 62 square miles, slightly smaller than Washington D.C. Liechtenstein’s 37,194 residents live in one of the most hospitable places in the world.
Life expectancy at birth in Liechtenstein is 80 years, one of the highest in the world. Area residents are also among the world’s wealthiest. Income per capita is equal to roughly $79,851, the highest of countries reviewed after only Qatar and Kuwait. While the 15 years of expected schooling lags behind 23 of the 25 most livable countries, students in Liechtenstein perform among the top 10 countries in the world in reading, math and science.
12. Hong Kong, China (SAR)
> Population: 7.3 million
> GNI per capita: $53,959
> Life expectancy at birth: 84.0 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 75.4%
Nestled in the southern tip of China, Hong Kong has established itself as a major service economy over the past few decades, specializing in trade and international finance. The share of Hong Kong’s workforce employed in the services industry grew from 62.4% in 1990 to 87.7% in 2012, the largest such share of any country at that time. The Port of Hong Kong is one of the busiest in the world, and the Special Administrative Region trades more as a percentage of its GDP than any other nation in the world, by far.
Residents of Hong Kong enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The life expectancy at birth, 84 years, is the longest on the planet. Despite modest public education expenditures, the country’s students are also well educated. On an international aptitude test, Hong Kong’s students performed the second best of any nation in reading and science, and the third best in mathematics.
> Population: 5.5 million
> GNI per capita: $76,628
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.0 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 77.4%
Singapore is one of only three non-OECD nations in the top 25 countries for human development. Also, the country’s improvement from 38th in 1990 to 11th this year is the fifth most dramatic improvement of countries reviewed over that period. The small island nation held its first presidential election in 1993, just three years after the HDI’s inception. Today, Singapore is an extremely wealthy country, with each resident earning $76,628 on average annually — the fourth highest GNI per capita worldwide. Singapore spends relatively little as a percentage of its GDP on education — just 2.9%. Yet, teenage students in Singapore perform better than the vast majority of students in other nations on international standardized tests.