What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life

By Vexen Crabtree 2013

--- The Best ---
CountryScore
1Iceland90.7
2Sweden90.2
3Norway89.2
4Denmark88.3
5New Zealand88.1
6Finland87.7
7Netherlands84.1
8Australia83.6
9Luxembourg83.6
10Belgium83.3
q=190.
--- The Worst ---
CountryScore
190Afghanistan27.4
189Sudan29.6
188Somalia29.7
187Congo, DR33.1
186Mauritania33.8
185Central African Rep.35.0
184Chad35.1
183Yemen35.5
182Iraq36.2
181Niger36.4
q=190.

Which countries set the best examples to the rest of the world? Which ones would we do best to copy, to emulate and to admire for their foresight, hard work and long-term conscience? Which countries would have humanity survive gleaming into a clean, happy, bright future?

And who are tardy on humanitarian issues, science or development? Which nations and cultures cling to barbarian ethics on gender and sexual equality? Who is holding us back?

I compile relevant statistics on a wide range of issues and put them into a database-driven system, which calculates points per country. The country's overall score is an average of all the datasets that a country appears in. So, countries don't get penalized for lack of data about them. I've arrived at a shortlist of countries that beat all the others. Be the best!


1. The Criteria (Year) Winners

Country2012
score
Average
1980-2010
1Norway95.587.3
2Australia93.888.9
3USA93.787.8
4Netherlands92.185.5
5Germany92.082.3
6New Zealand91.985.3
7Ireland91.682.3
8Sweden91.684.9
9Switzerland91.385.4
10Japan91.284.3
11Canada91.186.5
12Korea, S.90.977.5
13Iceland90.683.2
14Hong Kong90.680.3
15Denmark90.183.7
16Israel90.082.7
17Belgium89.783.2
18Austria89.581.3
19Singapore89.583.3
20France89.380.7
21Finland89.281.7
22Slovenia89.284.4
23Spain88.578.9
24Liechtenstein88.390.4
25Italy88.179.5
26Luxembourg87.580.9
27UK87.580.4
28Czech Rep.87.383.9
29Greece86.078.7
30Brunei85.579.7
q=187. Data Source

1.1. UN Human Development Index (2012) Norway, Australia, Netherlands 1

The United Nations produces an annual Human Development Report which includes the Human Development Index. The factors taken into account include life expectancy, education and schooling and Gross National Income (GNI) amongst many others.

Norway has been the top of this list since ousting Canada in 2001. Although I display recent data as it is the most interesting, points are actually awarded for countries' average position for each decade; taken from 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. This dampens any effect of short-term changes that don't truly reflect on how much we should respect and emulate that country. Anyone can go on a spending spree, look good for a while, and then crash! A large country could do this for years and manage to bump up GNI, and therefore affect their ranking, before then crashing and burning. So the long-term HDI is more important than the

Liechtenstein tops the averages chart because it has had pretty good ratings, but, mostly because the countries that top the charts in recent decades (the Scandinavian countries) done less well in the 1980s, which brought down their average.

Links:

1.2. Life Expectancy (Informational) (2012) [Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland] 2

Highest, in Years
1Japan83.6
2Hong Kong83
3Switzerland82.5
4Monaco82.3
5Australia82
6Italy82
7Iceland81.9
8San Marino81.9
9Israel81.9
10France81.7
q=194. Data Source
Lowest, in Years
194Sierra Leone48.1
193Guinea-Bissau48.6
192Lesotho48.7
191Congo, DR48.7
190Central African Rep.49.1
189Afghanistan49.1
188Swaziland48.9
187Zambia49.4
186Chad49.9
185Mozambique50.7
q=194. Data Source

Life Expectancy is already factored into the United Nation's Human Development Index, so, countries are not given scores again for this data. It is shown here just for interest's sake. Japan has topped this table for a long time; for example in 1989 its average life expectancy was 78.6 which was still higher than any other country3. Life expectancy reflects overall cultural health, including diet, the health services systems, attitudes to exercise and well being, and also family structure and caring. Life expectancy stats are sometimes skewed by taking into account immigration, so that much of the time stats are compiled of natural-born inhabitants only.

Links:

1.3. Overall Life Satisfaction (informational) (2011) [Denmark, Netherlands, Norway] 4

Happiest
1Denmark7.8
2Norway7.6
3Netherlands7.6
4Sweden7.5
5Austria7.5
6Switzerland7.5
7Venezuela7.5
8Finland7.4
9Canada7.4
10Australia7.4
q=150. Data Source
Unhappiest
150Togo2.8
149Botswana3.6
148Central African Rep.3.6
147Yemen3.7
146Benin3.7
145Chad3.7
144Haiti3.8
143Senegal3.8
142Nepal3.8
141Afghanistan3.8
q=150. Data Source

It is of course true that the happiest people are not those who are necessarily leading the best lives. Excess, indulgence and short-term policy can all lead to a high rating on this chart; things like living morally and frugally, for example, do not automatically go hand in hand with happiness. For this reason, this data is being shown on this page just for general interest and does not form part of the scoring for each country.

Despite the above disclaimer, it turns out to be true that those nations that score high on the moral and long-term issues on this page are also those who tend to be happiest.

1.4. Economic Freedom (2010) Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand5

Most Free
1Hong Kong9.0
2Singapore8.8
3New Zealand8.4
4Switzerland8.3
5Canada8.0
6Australia8.0
7Bahrain8.0
8Mauritius7.9
9Finland7.9
10UAE7.9
11Chile7.9
12Estonia7.8
13Ireland7.8
14UK7.8
15Denmark7.8
16USA7.8
17Taiwan7.8
18Qatar7.7
19Japan7.7
20Cyprus7.7
q=144. Data Source
Least Free
144Venezuela4.0
143Zimbabwe4.3
142Myanmar (Burma)4.3
141Congo, (Brazzaville)4.7
140Congo, DR5.0
139Angola5.1
138Guinea-Bissau5.2
137Chad5.3
136Algeria5.3
135Central African Rep.5.3
134Burundi5.4
133Mozambique5.4
132Niger5.5
131Togo5.5
130Mauritania5.6
129Ethiopia5.7
128Ivory Coast5.7
127Lesotho5.8
126Ecuador5.8
125Argentina5.8
q=144. Data Source

The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of privately owned property.

Fraser Institute (2012)

The Economic Freedom of the World reports of the Fraser Institute combined multiple factors into a single index. These include government size and consumption, tax rates, judicial independence, protection of property rights, military interference in politics, the integrity of the legal system, enforced laws of contracts, regulatory restrictions, costs of crime to business, inflation, freedom in banking, tariffs and trade barriers, the black market, capital controls, trade freedoms, regulations on hiring and firing staff and costs of beaurocracy in business, and more.

Links:

1.5. Environmental Performance (2011) Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica6

Best on Environment (2011)
1Iceland93.5
2Switzerland89.1
3Costa Rica86.4
4Sweden86.0
5Norway81.1
6Mauritius80.6
7France78.2
8Cuba78.1
9Austria78.1
10Colombia76.8
11Malta76.3
12Finland74.7
13Slovakia74.5
14UK74.2
15New Zealand73.4
16Chile73.3
17Germany73.2
18Italy73.1
19Portugal73.0
20Latvia72.5
q=162. Data Source
Worst on Environment (2011)
162Sierra Leone32.1
161Central African Rep.33.3
160Mauritania33.7
159Angola36.3
158Togo36.4
157Niger37.6
156Turkmenistan38.4
155Mali39.4
154Haiti39.5
153Benin39.6
152Nigeria40.2
151UAE40.7
150Chad40.8
149Iraq41.0
148Botswana41.3
147Cambodia41.7
146Korea, N.41.8
145Equatorial Guinea41.9
144Bahrain42.0
143Uzbekistan42.3
q=162. Data Source

The worst countries on this scale generally use massive quantities of natural resources in an unsustainable manner and are host to massive-scale deforestation and have populations that are rising quickly. Between 1990 and 2008 Sierra Leone lost 11% of its forest area, for example. Central African Republic lost 2.3%. Turkmenistan and United Arab Emirates have only a tiny percentage of their primary energy supply sourced from renewables (both under 0.03%). Equatorial Guinea saw its CO2 emissions per person rise by 11% between 1970-2008, the second highest in the world after Bhutan. Incredibly for an island, under 13% of those in Haiti believe that human activity is causing global warming, whilst only 29% believe it in United Arab Emirates and Turkmenistan.

The best countries are not better in all criteria but normally excel in a few categories. Iceland produces 82% of its primary energy supply through renewable sources. Its CO2 emissions per person rose only by 0.1 percent. It more than doubled its forested area between 1990 and 2008. Switzerland reduced its CO2 emissions per person by 0.5% and also increased its forested areas.

1.6. Global Peace Index (2012) Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark7

Most Peaceful
1Iceland1.11
2New Zealand1.24
3Denmark1.24
4Canada1.32
5Japan1.33
6Austria1.33
7Ireland1.33
8Slovenia1.33
9Finland1.35
10Switzerland1.35
11Belgium1.38
12Qatar1.39
13Czech Rep.1.40
14Sweden1.42
15Germany1.42
16Portugal1.47
17Hungary1.48
18Norway1.48
19Bhutan1.48
20Malaysia1.49
21Mauritius1.49
22Australia1.49
23Singapore1.52
24Poland1.52
25Spain1.55
26Slovakia1.59
27Taiwan1.60
28Netherlands1.61
29UK1.61
30Chile1.62
q=157. Data Source
Least Peaceful
157Somalia3.39
156Afghanistan3.25
155Sudan3.19
154Iraq3.19
153Congo, DR3.07
152Russia2.94
151Korea, N.2.93
150Central African Rep.2.87
149Israel2.84
148Pakistan2.83
q=157. Data Source

"The 2012 Global Peace Index is the sixth edition of the world's leading study on global levels of peacefulness. The GPI ranks 158 nations using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources, which gauge three broad themes: the level of safety and security in society; the extent of domestic or international conflict; and the degree of militarisation. By generating new information on the state of peace at the national and global level, the Institute for Economics and Peace hopes to make a valuable contribution to better understanding how civil society, researchers, policymakers, and government can create a more peaceful society."

GPI Fact Sheet

Other comments on the creation of the Peace Index:

The Dalai Lama said that he hoped the index would encourage countries to strive for peace. "Compiling and maintaining an index of which countries are the most peaceful and publishing the results will undoubtedly make the factors and qualities that contribute to that status better known and will encourage people to foster them in their own countries," he said.

The Guardian (2007)8

Despite the positive appeal of the Global Peace Index, it is imperfect and as with all international statistics, some countries appear to have a natural advantage. In this case, it is small countries which exist inside regional blocs, where their bigger neighbours spend on defence. You can't invade Denmark (2nd) or Switzerland (12th) without stepping on the toes of many other countries which have meatier defences, so there is less incentive for those countries to invest in defence. Although note that of course defence spending is only one of the many factors considered by the GPI, it is easy to imagine that a country such as Israel (151st), surrounded by aggressive neighbours, could never score well on this index.

1.7. Fertility Rates (2012) N. Korea, Brunei, St.Vincent & Gren. 9

Best Rates (2011)
1Korea, N.2.0
2Brunei2.0
3St Vincent & Grenadines2.0
4France2.0
5Turkey2.0
6Australia2.0
7Uruguay2.0
8Norway2.0
9Myanmar (Burma)2.0
10Indonesia2.1
11Sweden1.9
12Tunisia1.9
13St Lucia1.9
14USA2.1
15Ireland2.1
16Iceland2.1
17Denmark1.9
18Bahamas1.9
19Finland1.9
20UK1.9
q=180. Data Source
Most Dangerous Rates (2011)
180Niger7.0
179Somalia6.3
178Zambia6.3
177Mali6.2
176Afghanistan6.0
175Timor-Leste (E. Timor)6.0
174Malawi6.0
173Uganda6.0
172Chad5.8
171Burkina Faso5.8
170Congo, DR5.5
169Tanzania5.5
168Nigeria5.5
167Rwanda5.3
166Angola5.2
165Benin5.1
164Liberia5.1
163Guinea5.1
162Equatorial Guinea5.0
161Yemen5.0
q=180. Data Source

The fertility rate is, in simple terms, the average amount of children that each woman has. The higher the figure, the quicker the population is growing, although, to calculate the rate you also need to take into account morbidity, i.e., the rate at which people die. If people live healthy and long lives and morbidity is low, then, 2.0 approximates to the replacement rate, which would keep the population stable. If all countries had such a fertility rate, population growth would end. The actual replacement rate in most developed countries is around 2.1.

In order to calculate the points for each country, I had to pick an optimum fertility rate, and then detract points as countries strayed from it. I have opted for the round figure of 2.0, slightly lower than the replacement rate, because the population right now is too high, therefore, the best fertility rate is probably one that will see a gradual decline in population numbers, at least for a few hundred years. The decline cannot be fast however, as this tends to create severe economic problems. So, any country that is either below 2.0 or above 2.0 loses points.

See:

1.8. Immunization Deficiencies (2010) 23-country draw 10

Best Rates (2010)
1Andorra2
2Monaco2
3Dominica2
4Eritrea2
5St Vincent & Grenadines2
6Brazil2
7Tonga2
8Nicaragua2
9Mauritius2
10Turkmenistan2
11Seychelles2
12China2
13Kazakhstan2
14Bahrain2
15Sri Lanka2
16Iran2
17Hungary2
18Nauru2
19Albania2
20Honduras2
21Belarus2
22Greece2
23Kyrgyzstan2
24Russia3
25Slovakia3
26Ecuador3
27Cuba3
28Antigua & Barbuda3
29Qatar3
30Poland3
31Finland3
32Morocco3
33Uzbekistan3
34Belize3
35St Kitts & Nevis3
36Thailand3
37Czech Rep.3
38Argentina3
39Macedonia4
40Gambia4
q=191. Data Source
Most Dangerous Rates (2010)
191Somalia99
190Equatorial Guinea84
189Chad83
188Gabon76
187Central African Rep.74
186Guinea74
185Vanuatu70
184Congo, DR65
183Papua New Guinea65
182Lebanon64
181S. Africa62
180Uganda62
179Liberia61
178Senegal60
177Timor-Leste (E. Timor)59
176Haiti58
175Madagascar55
174Laos55
173Mozambique53
172Azerbaijan53
171Nigeria52
170Afghanistan52
169Mauritania51
168Niger49
167Solomon Islands47
166Comoros47
165Mali47
164Guinea-Bissau47
163Iraq46
162India43
161Samoa42
160Namibia38
159Benin37
158Ivory Coast35
157Congo, (Brazzaville)34
156Bolivia34
155Yemen33
154Venezuela31
153Austria31
152Micronesia30
q=191. Data Source

The immunization deficiency value is the percent of one-year-olds missing the three DTP jabs plus the percent missing measles immunization. The DTP jab is the combined diphtheria, tetanus toxoid and pertussis jab. These four diseases represent such a horrible suite of diseases and are very widely promoted by health organisations, so, they represent the state of the country's attitude towards first-line medical science in general. An ignorant government, an irresponsible mass media and an ill-educated populace could all result in a lower acceptance of immunizations. The prominence of these four jabs plus the availability of statistics on delivery make this criteria a useful one for gauging societal development.

The benefits of immunization are self-evident for the health of the children themselves, but, there are wider implications. The fewer who are immunized, the greater the spread of outbreaks of serious disease, and, the fewer who are immunized, the greater the welfare costs, hospitalization costs, social losses and therefore, economic losses.

A scare caused by researcher Andrew Wakefield in 1998 saw stories appear across many news outlets about a link between autism and the MMR jab, causing significant reductions in the uptake of vaccines (it includes measles vaccination). The small study was overturned and found to be wrong, and, ten of the contributors withdrew their name from the paper. A "conflict of interest" was revealed that shed light on the bias behind his research: "at the time of its publication he was conducting research for a group of parents of autistic children seeking to sue for damages from MMR vaccine producers. Wakefield has applied for patents for an MMR vaccine substitute and [other related treatments]. So, not only was he allegedly paid by lawyers to cast doubt on the MMR vaccine, but he stood to gain personally from the outcome of his research". Unfortunately, the cheaper and most popular news outlets care for scare stories, and not for recalcitrations, so that many people were left misinformed.11

1.9. Nominal Commitment to Human Rights (2009) Argentina, 12-country draw12

Year and Country
1Argentina24
2Ecuador23
3Germany23
4Spain23
5Slovenia23
6Mexico23
7Serbia23
8Sweden23
9Uruguay23
10Chile23
11Costa Rica23
12Paraguay23
13Peru23
14Austria22
15Denmark22
16Croatia22
17Italy22
18Belgium22
19Brazil21
20Bosnia & Herzegovina21
21Bolivia21
22France21
23Montenegro21
24Senegal21
25Mali21
26Azerbaijan21
27Guatemala21
28Australia21
29Iceland20
30Ukraine20
q=194. Data Source

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score is 24.

This ranking is comprised of the 8 core United Nations International Human Rights Treaties and their Optional Protocols, individual petition mechanisms under ICCPR, ICERD, CAT, CEDAW and CRPD, the Genocide Convention, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its two Additional Protocols, the Refugee Convention and its Protocol and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Argentina is, at this time, the only state that has ratified all of the treaties and accepted all the individual petition mechanisms. The Latin American and the Caribbean Group (GRULAC) has the highest number of ratifications, with 8 out of the 12 states ranking 1st and 2nd coming from the region. Western European and Others Group make up the other four states ranked second. The bottom end of the chart is made up predominantly of Asian states or small island states. Bhutan and Kiribati have the lowest ranking at just three ratifications each. Both have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Two of the five permanent members of the Security Council - France and the United Kingdom - are in the top five and two current non-permanent members - Costa Rica and Mexico - are joint second. Of the permanent members, the "The United States of America: Foreign Policy and International Discord" by Vexen Crabtree (2002) scores the lowest with a ranking of 17. The Top 5 of the United Nations Development Index of 2008 are also in the top five of the Ratifications by Country list.

NCHR Report (2009)

1.10. Slavery (2013) Joint: UK, Ireland, Iceland 13

Global Slavery Index
CountryRankSlaves
1Ireland160321
2Iceland16022
3UK1604426
4New Zealand159495
5Austria1501100
6Belgium1501448
7Sweden1501237
8Switzerland1501040
9Denmark150727
10Finland150704
11Greece1501466
12Norway150652
13Luxembourg15069
14Cuba1492116
15Portugal1471368
16Spain1476008
17Costa Rica146679
18Panama145548
19Canada1445863
20Mauritius143535
q=162. Data Source
Global Slavery Index
CountryRankSlaves
162Mauritania1151353
161Haiti2209165
160Pakistan32127132
159India413956010
158Nepal5258806
157Moldova633325
156Benin780371
155Ivory Coast8156827
154Gambia914046
153Gabon1013707
152Senegal11102481
151Ethiopia12651110
150Sierra Leone1344644
149Togo1448794
148Cape Verde153688
147Eritrea1544452
146Guinea1782198
145Ghana18181038
144Congo, (Brazzaville)1930889
143Guinea-Bissau2012186
q=162. Data Source

The Global Slavery Index was published for the first time in 2013. The rankings result from the estimated number of slaves as a percent of the population of the country, "a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country. [...] The data on the level of human trafficking in and out of a country were taken from the US Trafficking in Persons report whilst the child marriage numbers are from UNICEF"14.

I did consider researching when each country abolished slavery and giving each a point per year, therefore rewarding those countries that were first to abolish it. Then, I would give this historical ranking a 50% weight, and give the Global Slavery Index a 50% weight. However, it is clear that countries that were involved in slavery were the first to come to abolish it (e.g. Spain in 1542), and therefore, such a historical index would be very unfair.

Links:

1.11. Women Stand for Election & Vote (1893+) New Zealand, Australia, Finland15

Country and Year
1New Zealand1893
2Australia1902
3Finland1906
4Norway1913
5Iceland1915
6Denmark1915
7Russia1917
8Estonia1918
9Kyrgyzstan1918
10Latvia1918
11Germany1919
12Slovakia1919
13Czech Rep.1919
14Poland1919
15Netherlands1919
16Belarus1919
17Luxembourg1919
18Ukraine1919
19Austria1919
20Canada1920
21Albania1920
22USA1920
23Azerbaijan1921
24Lithuania1921
25Sweden1921
26Georgia1921
27Armenia1921
28Ireland1922
29Mongolia1924
30St Lucia1924
q=187.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world.

Although literature talks of countries granting the "women's right to vote", in a democracy where all people have a voice in government it is more the case that women are "no longer denied their right to vote" rather than being "granted" a right that they already had, but, were denied.

The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, various other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

1.12. Gender Inequality Index (2012) Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark 4

Most Discriminatory
148Yemen0.75
147Afghanistan0.71
146Niger0.71
145Saudi Arabia0.68
144Congo, DR0.68
143Liberia0.66
142Central African Rep.0.65
141Mali0.65
140Sierra Leone0.64
139Mauritania0.64
138Ivory Coast0.63
137Cameroon0.63
136Zambia0.62
135Benin0.62
134Papua New Guinea0.62
133Congo, (Brazzaville)0.61
132India0.61
131Burkina Faso0.61
130Kenya0.61
129Sudan0.60
q=148. Data Source
Most Equal
1Netherlands0.04
2Sweden0.05
3Denmark0.06
4Switzerland0.06
5Norway0.06
6Finland0.08
7Germany0.08
8Slovenia0.08
9France0.08
10Iceland0.09
11Italy0.09
12Belgium0.10
13Singapore0.10
14Austria0.10
15Spain0.10
16Portugal0.11
17Australia0.12
18Canada0.12
19Ireland0.12
20Czech Rep.0.12
q=148. Data Source

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. These are not factored into the HDI, therefore, countries get a separate range of points on my Social and Moral Development Index.

Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

See:

1.13. Gay Rights and Equality (2013) Netherlands, Belgium, Canada16

Most Equal
1Netherlands40.5
2Belgium35
3Canada28
4Sweden25.5
5Spain24.5
6S. Africa24.1
7Denmark22.5
8Iceland22
9Andorra21
10Norway21
11Argentina20
12Brazil19.6
13France19.5
14Réunion18.5
15Mexico16.8
16Luxembourg16.5
17Greenland13.5
18Portugal13.5
19UK13
20Uruguay12.5
21Peru12
22Italy11.5
23Guatemala11.5
24Poland11.5
25Paraguay11
26Honduras11
27Monaco11
28Japan11
29Turkey10
30Germany10
q=211. Data Source
Most Discriminatory
211UAE-52
210Saudi Arabia-52
209Yemen-52
208Iran-52
207Sudan-52
206Afghanistan-52
205Somaliland-50
204Mauritania-22
203Malaysia-22
202Tanzania-22
201Malawi-22
200Nigeria-22
199Uganda-22
198Myanmar (Burma)-20
197Guyana-20
196Sierra Leone-19.5
195Gambia-16
194Kenya-16
193Solomon Islands-16
192Antigua & Barbuda-15
191Zambia-14
190Papua New Guinea-14
189Seychelles-13
188Tuvalu-13
187Kuwait-12
186Trinidad & Tobago-12
185Brunei-12
184Bangladesh-12
183St Lucia-12
182Tonga-10
q=211. Data Source

The points awarded here take into account multiple factors: for how long fully equal same-sex marriage has been legal, for how long gay adoption has been possible, for how long civil unions have been possible (or any other similar domestic partnering functions that grant some equal rights to LGBT folk), whether or not the country has signed the UN's 2008 pro-LGBT document, positive points for gay sex not being illegal and negative points for its illegality, and, a point for there being effective anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT folk.

Several of these factors are scaled by age; meaning, the longer ago the positive change was made, the higher the score is for that criteria. Some of the criteria are necessarily capped at a maximum score as some countries have never had anti-gay-sex laws, for example.

Where same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions (CU) are only legal in some states of the country, but not others, I multiply the SSM+CU points by the proportion of states that accept it. Therefore, the more states that accept it, the fuller proportion of proper score the country receives.

A point is awarded for having signed the UN 2008 document in support of LGBT non-harassment and equality, and, a negative point is awarded for signing the anti-LGBT-document championed by the Catholic Church and the Muslim world in 2008 December. Some countries signed the opposing document but have since switched; they now get 0.5 points.

The legality points are awarded negatively according to severity of punishments for being accused of having gay sex. There is -1 point for each year of imprisonment, -20 points for life imprisonment or corporal punishment, and, -50 points if homosexuality carries the death penalty. Many countries only have such laws against male homosexuality, but, where the laws are gender unequal, I've still assigned the worse possible points. In some cases I have reduced points if it is public knowledge that the country does not actually make its discriminatory laws effective. If gay sex is not illegal, then, points are awarded according to how long it has been legal, to a maximum of 10 points. Generally, from 1970 and further back, one point is awarded per decade.

In nearly every country, strong opposition to gay equality, gay rights, and anti-discrimination laws has been the Catholic Church or Muslim authorities (depending on the country). In some pluralist countries, both groups have joined forces to oppose LGBT-friendly human rights law. In the Netherlands "the only opposition in parliament came from the Christian Democratic Party, which at the time was not part of the governing coalition. [...] Muslim and conservative Christian groups continue to oppose the law" [PF 2013). In Spain "Vatican officials, as well as the Catholic Spanish Bishops Conference, strongly criticized the law". In Norway there was "resistance from members of the Christian Democratic Party and the Progress Party" [...] "Lutheran-affiliated Church of Norway, was split over the issue. Following passage of the new law, the church's leaders voted to prohibit its pastors from conducting same-sex weddings". In Argentina "vigorous opposition from the Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant churches".

Obnoxiousness is not the preserve of Christian and Muslim organisations however. In South Africa religious institutions and civil officers can refuse to conduct ceremonies and "the traditional monarch of the Zulu people, who account for about one-fifth of the country's population, maintains that homosexuality is morally wrong".

Links:

1.14. Press Freedom Index (2013) Finland, Netherlands, Norway7

Most Points
1Finland100
2Netherlands99.87
3Norway99.82
4Luxembourg99.62
5Andorra99.44
6Denmark99.11
7Liechtenstein98.76
8New Zealand97.45
9Iceland97.31
10Sweden96.37
11Estonia96.33
12Austria96.15
13Jamaica95.54
14Switzerland95.46
15Ireland95.31
16Czech Rep.95.17
17Germany95.08
18Costa Rica92.73
19Namibia92.2
20Canada91.96
q=178. Data Source
Least Points
178Eritrea0
177Korea, N.1.19
176Turkmenistan7.25
175Syria8.03
174Somalia14.33
173Iran14.57
172China14.99
171Vietnam16.63
170Cuba16.81
169Sudan18.83
168Yemen19.9
167Laos21.47
166Djibouti22.22
165Equatorial Guinea22.47
164Bahrain28.15
163Uzbekistan31.15
162Saudi Arabia35.63
161Sri Lanka36
160Rwanda37.44
159Kazakhstan37.92
q=178. Data Source

Scores are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted."

"The same three European countries that headed the index last year hold the top three positions again this year. For the third year running, Finland has distinguished itself as the country that most respects media freedom. It is followed by the Netherlands and Norway. [At the bottom are the] same three as last year - Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea".

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

Links:

1.15. Freedom On The Net (2012) Estonia, USA, Germany7

Best Countries
1Estonia10
2USA12
3Germany15
4Australia18
5Hungary19
6Philippines23
7Italy23
8UK25
9Argentina26
10S. Africa26
11Brazil27
12Ukraine27
13Kenya29
14Georgia30
15Nigeria33
16Korea, S.34
17Uganda34
18Kyrgyzstan35
19Mexico37
20India39
q=47. Data Source
Worst Countries
47Iran90
46Cuba86
45China85
44Syria83
43Uzbekistan77
42Myanmar (Burma)75
41Ethiopia75
40Vietnam73
39Saudi Arabia71
38Bahrain71
37Belarus69
36Pakistan63
35Thailand61
34Egypt59
33Kazakhstan58
32Sri Lanka55
31Zimbabwe54
30Russia52
29Rwanda51
28Azerbaijan50
q=47. Data Source

This is an important category as internet access allows access to varied sources of information outside of state influence, and access to the information age is a massive boost to personal liberty and personal potential. Scores are derived from these categories:

  1. "Obstacles to Access: assesses infrastructural and economic barriers to access; governmental efforts to block specific applications or technologies; and legal, regulatory and ownership control over internet and mobile phone access providers."
  2. "Limits on Content: examines filtering and blocking of websites; other forms of censorship and self-censorship; manipulation of content; the diversity of online news media; and usage of digital media for social and political activism."
  3. "Violations of User Rights: measures legal protections and restrictions on online activity; surveillance; privacy; and repercussions for online activity, such as legal prosecution, imprisonment, physical attacks, or other forms of harassment."

14 countries improved their stance on allowing access to the Internet uncensored by political or ideological bias, since last year. Bahrain, Pakistan, and Ethiopia saw the biggest increases in authoritarian behaviour. In many countries, imprisonment and violence against journalists and bloggers increased, and Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws were increasingly enforced for online behaviour, reducing its ranking somewhat. "Only 4 of the 20 countries that recently experienced declines are considered electoral democracies. [...]"

"Regimes are covertly hiring armies of pro-government bloggers to tout the official point of view, discredit opposition activists, or disseminate false information about unfolding events [and] over the last year, it has been adopted in more than a quarter of the countries examined. The Bahraini authorities, for example, have employed hundreds of "trolls" whose responsibility is to scout popular domestic and international websites, and while posing as ordinary users, attack the credibility of those who post information that reflects poorly on the government."

1.16. Malware and Email Spam (2010-2) 5

The Worst
271USA3.68
270Russia2.42
269India2.10
268Sudan1.98
267Bangladesh1.87
266Iraq1.84
265Oman1.72
264Sri Lanka1.67
263Angola1.61
262China1.59
261Maldives1.57
260Tanzania1.50
259Rwanda1.50
258Netherlands1.47
257Germany1.47
256Afghanistan1.46
255Nepal1.45
254Ukraine1.44
253Uganda1.44
252Mongolia1.42
Data Source

This index measures to what extent countries produce spam and malware. Spam has threatened to destroy the world's email systems and has certainly cost the IT industry billions in mitigation. "Malware" is malicious software, and the index takes into account the number of servers based in country that are Botnet CnC machines (which are bad), and the numbers of servers that host malicious downloads, including some of those associated with the infamous Blackhole crimepak.

Russia's authorities have historically been quite lax toward cybercriminals.

Kaspersky Labs (2012)

The index also includes measures of host-based virus-detection from removable devices such as USB drives. This measures the danger in running IT systems in those locations, and probably reflects badly on the society and governments level of understanding of IT security in general.

Being a source of spam or malware is gauged as being four times worse than the other factors considered, especially as detection and block actions from antivirus are a good thing and only indirectly give away the fact that the IT security of the local environment is bad.

The data comes from a range of IT security companies including AVG, Kaspersky, McAfee and Sophos, covering 2010, 2011 and 2012 reports. In total, 17 reports' data were accumulated for this index, in all cases listing the worst offenders. In all this data only 83 unique countries appeared. All countries not on these lists have been given full points on account of no news being good news!

The upside to this IT Security index is that countries that are host to malware score lowly, bringing down their average scores. The downside to this negative index is that over 100 countries scored top points and many of these are not countries that have excellent IT security, but merely are countries that do not have much IT infrastructure. Hopefully a positive measure of IT security will resolve this in the future.

1.17. Internet Users in Population (2010) Iceland, Norway, Netherlands 4

Internet Users in Population (%)
11Korea, S.82.52
12Switzerland82.17
13Qatar81.59
14Canada81.34
15Andorra81.00
16Antigua & Barbuda80.65
17Liechtenstein80.00
18Slovakia79.89
19UAE78.00
20Japan77.64
q=183. Data Source
Internet Users in Population (%)
1Iceland95.64
2Norway93.28
3Netherlands90.70
4Luxembourg90.08
5Sweden90.02
6Denmark88.77
7Finland86.90
8UK84.73
9New Zealand83.00
10Germany82.53
q=183. Data Source

Internet access has become an essential research tool. It facilitates an endless list of life improvements, from the ability to network and socialize without constraint, to access to a seemingly infinite repository of technical and procedural information on pretty much any task. The universal availability of data has sped up industrial development and personal learning at the national and personal level. Individuals can read any topic they wish regardless of the locality of expert teachers, and, entire nations can develop their technology and understanding of the world simply because they are now exposed to advanced societies and moral discourses online. Like every communications medium, the Internet has issues and causes a small range of problems, but these are insignificant compared to the advantages of having an online populace.

1.18. Religion Importance (2009) Estonia, Sweden, Denmark 13

Least Religious
1Estonia16%
2Sweden17%
3Denmark19%
4Hong Kong24%
5Japan24%
6UK27%
7France30%
8Vietnam30%
9Belarus34%
10Russia34%
11Albania39%
12Latvia39%
13Luxembourg39%
14Hungary39%
15Germany40%
16Switzerland41%
17Uruguay41%
18Lithuania42%
19Canada42%
20Kazakhstan43%
21Korea, S.43%
22Ukraine46%
23Slovenia47%
24Spain49%
25Azerbaijan50%
26Israel51%
27Uzbekistan51%
28Ireland54%
29Serbia54%
30USA65%
31Argentina66%
32Croatia70%
33Chile70%
34Singapore70%
35Montenegro71%
36Greece71%
37Italy72%
38Moldova72%
39Kyrgyzstan72%
40Mexico73%
q=114. Data Source
Most Religious
114Bangladesh99.5%
113Niger99.5%
112Malawi99%
111Yemen99%
110Sri Lanka99%
109Indonesia99%
108Burundi98%
107Somaliland98%
106Djibouti98%
105Mauritania98%
104Afghanistan97%
103Thailand97%
102Comoros97%
101Morocco97%
100Egypt97%
99Cameroon96%
98Senegal96%
97Philippines96%
96Malaysia96%
95Nigeria96%
q=114. Data Source
Disbelief In God
1Vietnam81%
2Japan65%
3Sweden64%
4Czech Rep.61%
5Estonia49%
6Denmark48%
7France44%
8Belgium43%
9Germany42%
10UK42%
11Netherlands42%
12Cuba40%
13Slovenia35%
14Bulgaria34%
15Hungary32%
16Norway31%
17Korea, S.30%
18Finland28%
19Russia27%
20Australia25%
q=137. Data Source

High rates of religion are associated with many inequalities and problems, for example male-dominated society and abuse of women, and gender inequality, poor adoption of human rights and anti-science and poor education policies. The Gallup (2009) data used here is used by the Social and Moral Index formula to grant points based on areligiosity. The data set on belief in god is only informational, as such personal beliefs are not the same thing as organised, endemic religion.

Religion in Europe: Over the last 60 years, religion in Europe has seen a strong decline. On average throughout the 27 EU countries, only half of its people believe in God17. There is much variation from country to country. Only 16% of the populace of Estonia believe in God and the Scandinavian countries are highly atheist. One sociologist calls Berlin 'the world capital of atheism'18. But 95% believe in Malta. Two main social groups are particularly prone to belief in God; those over 55 years old and those whose education did not proceed beyond the 15-year-old stage. Finally, females are more likely to believe in God than males.17

More on Europe:

Links:

2. Table of Country Scores

Countries are only listed here if they appear in over 5 data sets otherwise their score could be inaccurate.

--- The Best ---
CountryScore
1Iceland90.7
2Sweden90.2
3Norway89.2
4Denmark88.3
5New Zealand88.1
6Finland87.7
7Netherlands84.1
8Australia83.6
9Luxembourg83.6
10Belgium83.3
11Austria83.1
12Hong Kong82.8
13Switzerland82.6
14Germany82.4
15Canada82.3
16Estonia81.8
17Ireland81.1
18UK80.9
19France80.2
20Spain79.6
21Andorra79.4
22Japan79.0
23Slovakia78.3
24Czech Rep.78.2
25Lithuania77.1
26Portugal76.7
27Liechtenstein76.6
28Slovenia75.6
29Latvia75.4
30St Vincent & Grenadines74.9
31Korea, S.74.5
32Uruguay72.7
33Italy72.7
34Poland72.6
35Costa Rica72.5
36Hungary72.2
37Mauritius71.0
38Singapore71.0
39Albania70.9
40Croatia70.4
41Greece70.3
42Antigua & Barbuda69.9
43Serbia69.8
44Cyprus69.8
45Bulgaria69.8
46Argentina69.3
47Barbados69.2
48Chile69.0
49Malta68.9
50Montenegro68.6
51Seychelles68.4
52St Kitts & Nevis68.1
53Romania68.0
54Bahamas67.9
55USA67.9
56St Lucia67.3
57Brunei67.2
58Macedonia66.8
59Israel66.6
60Panama66.6
61Dominica65.7
62Trinidad & Tobago65.7
63Ukraine64.7
64Grenada64.6
q=190.
The Average
CountryScore
65Suriname64.4
66Jamaica64.0
67Peru64.0
68Mexico63.9
69Brazil63.9
70Belarus63.7
71Bosnia & Herzegovina63.5
72Maldives63.1
73Georgia62.5
74Armenia62.4
75Cape Verde62.1
76Kyrgyzstan61.9
77Tunisia61.8
78Fiji61.6
79Belize61.5
80Mongolia61.4
81El Salvador60.7
82Ecuador60.6
83Jordan60.5
84Cuba60.5
85Turkey60.4
86Nicaragua59.9
87Paraguay59.6
88S. Africa59.2
89Dominican Rep.59.2
90Bhutan59.1
91Colombia59.0
92Morocco58.9
93UAE58.8
94Philippines58.6
95Qatar58.4
96Russia58.4
97Azerbaijan58.1
98Oman58.1
99Guyana57.9
100Honduras57.8
101Malaysia57.8
102Libya57.5
103Kazakhstan57.5
104Kuwait57.1
105Palau56.7
106Guatemala56.5
107Moldova56.4
108Namibia56.3
109Tonga56.1
110Algeria55.8
111Botswana55.6
112Vietnam55.5
113Bahrain55.3
114Venezuela55.1
115Lebanon54.9
116Tajikistan54.8
117Swaziland54.5
118Lesotho54.4
119Bolivia53.9
120Egypt53.5
121Thailand53.4
122Sri Lanka53.4
123Sao Tome & Principe53.2
124Micronesia53.0
125Timor-Leste (E. Timor)53.0
126Samoa53.0
127Palestine52.7
128China52.2
q=190.
The Challenged
CountryScore
129Uzbekistan52.0
130Madagascar51.4
131Korea, N.51.1
132Turkmenistan51.0
133Indonesia50.8
134Ghana50.4
135Kiribati50.1
136Tuvalu50.0
137Cambodia49.8
138Kenya49.3
139Gabon49.1
140Vanuatu47.5
141Burkina Faso47.0
142Nepal46.6
143Papua New Guinea46.3
144Togo46.2
145Laos45.8
146Syria45.5
147Myanmar (Burma)45.4
148Sierra Leone45.3
149Haiti45.2
150Liberia45.1
151Gambia45.0
152Comoros44.9
153Angola44.8
154Bangladesh44.7
155Solomon Islands44.4
156Senegal44.2
157Congo, (Brazzaville)44.1
158Iran44.1
159Mozambique43.9
160Guinea43.6
161Rwanda43.2
162Burundi43.1
163Saudi Arabia42.9
164Djibouti42.9
165Zambia42.8
166Benin42.7
167Eritrea42.5
168Tanzania42.3
169Zimbabwe41.8
170Cameroon41.7
171Uganda41.4
172Nigeria40.7
173Ivory Coast40.6
174India40.2
175Malawi40.2
176Ethiopia40.0
177Equatorial Guinea39.7
178Pakistan39.4
179Mali38.3
180Guinea-Bissau37.5
181Niger36.4
182Iraq36.2
183Yemen35.5
184Chad35.1
185Central African Rep.35.0
186Mauritania33.8
187Congo, DR33.1
188Somalia29.7
189Sudan29.6
190Afghanistan27.4
q=190.

3. Notes on Methodology12

Results charts have the best 5 countries marked with a green number, and the worst 5 marked with a red one. If there is a tie, then, the markers extend for as long as the tie continues. Sometimes the actual points are calculated to many significant figures, but, the results are only shown for 3 s.f. and in these cases, it might look like the flags do not extend enough. To view the data in more detail hover over any row to view in more detail what the actual points awarded were.

I have considered giving the UN HDR's rankings double the importance (allowing countries to score 0-200 for this data, instead of 0-100), as it includes multiple factors. However, it is not primarily concerned with morality, and one if its 3 criteria spreads is purely financial. It includes schooling years, but, I intend on also including a more potent statistic on that topic, measuring more than just school-age achievements.

4. Previous Edition (2005-2007) Winners: Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and Germany

For old stats, view the archived page: "Which Countries Set the Best Examples? (Archived page from 2005-2007)" by Vexen Crabtree (2005).

The Best Countries
2005-2007
Q
#1 Sweden1683 pointsx20
#2 Denmark1598 pointsx20
#3 Netherlands1572 pointsx20
#4 Finland1514 pointsx20
#5 Germany1422 pointsx21
#6 UK1407 pointsx21
#7 Canada1373 pointsx19
#8 Switzerland1326 pointsx18
#9 Norway1320 pointsx17
#10 Belgium1208 pointsx19
  1. Human Development Index Norway, Iceland
  2. Global Peace Index Norway, New Zealand
  3. Gender Equality Sweden, Norway
  4. Life expectancy Japan, Hong Kong
  5. Quality of Life Ireland, Switzerland
  6. Most Competitive Economy Switzerland, Finland
  7. Economic Freedom Hong Kong, Singapore
  8. Gay Rights Sweden, Norway
  9. Obesity Japan, Korea
  10. Adults at High Literacy Level Sweden, Norway
  11. Environment
  12. Open Access to Research Sweden, Netherlands
  13. Asylum Seeker Acceptance Rates Denmark, Canada
  14. Aid to Developing Countries Norway, Luxembourg
  15. IT: Networked Readiness Index Denmark, Sweden
  16. IT: Computer Piracy Levels USA, New Zealand
  17. Secularisation Czech Republic & France

Read / Write Comments

By Vexen Crabtree 2013
Originally published 2005
Last Updated: 2013 Oct 18
http://www.vexen.co.uk/countries/best.html

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

Book Cover

Skeptical Inquirer. Pro-science magazine published bimonthly by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, New York, USA.

The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source.

Beetham, David
Democracy: A Beginner's Guide (2005). Published by Oneworld Publications, Oxford, UK.

British Medical Journal. Tavistock Square, London, UK. http://www.bmj.com.

Gallup
Religiosity (2009). gallup.com/poll/142727/.... The survey question was "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" and results are charted for those who said "yes". 1000 adults were polled in each of 114 countries.

Giddens, Anthony
Sociology (1997). Hardback 3rd edition. First edition was 1989. Published by Polity Press in association with Blackwell Publishers Ltd. The Amazon link is to a newer version.

Jones, Tim
Future Agenda: The World In 2020 (2010). Published by Infinite Ideas.

Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg
Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations (2009). Richard Lynn, John Harvey and Helmuth Nyborg article "Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations" in Intelligence (2009 Jan/Feb) vol. 37 issue 1 pages 11-15. Online at www.sciencedirect.com, accessed 2009 Sep 15.

United Nations
Human Development Report (2011). This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Published on the United Nation's website at hdr.undp.org/.../HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf (accessed throughout 2013, Jan-Mar). UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
Human Development Report (2013). This edition had the theme of The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Published on the United Nation's website at hdr.undp.org/.../hdr2013/ (accessed throughout 2013). UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.

Footnotes

  1. Added to this page on 2013 Aug 11.^
  2. Added to this page on 2013 Aug 10.^
  3. Giddens (1997) p130.^
  4. Added to this page on 2013 Aug 12.^^^
  5. Added to this page on 2013 Apr 08.^^
  6. Added to this page on 2013 Mar 11.^
  7. Added to this page on 2013 Feb 06.^^^
  8. The Guardian (2007 May 30) article "Norway rated world's most peaceful country".^
  9. Added to this page on 2013 Sep 01.^
  10. Added to this page on 2013 Aug 13.^
  11. Steven Novella, MD, Skeptical Inquirer (2007 Nov/Dec, p25-31) "The Anti-Vaccination Movement". S. Novella is assistant professor of neurology at Yale University School of Medicine.^
  12. Added to this page on 2013 Jan 30.^^
  13. Added to this page on 2013 Oct 18.^^
  14. www.globalslaveryindex.org About the Index page (n.d.) accessed 2013 Oct 18.^
  15. Added to this page on 2013 Jan 29.^
  16. Added to this page on 2013 Apr 19.^
  17. "Eurobarometer 225: Social values, Science & Technology". Published by Eurostat (2005) for the European Commission. Accessed 2008 Sep 01.^
  18. The Economist (2009 Mar 28) article "Religious education in Germany: God and Berlin" p46. Added to this page on 2013 Jun 10.^

© 2013 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.

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