NZ ranks fifth in UN living standards report

New Zealand has been named fifth in the annual report that ranks countries according to their standards of health, education and income.

The annual Human Development Index (HDI) , was released by the United Nations Development Programme yesterday.

New Zealand was among the countries in the "very high human development" category. It ranked 23 in terms of gender inequality in an accompanying index.

The HDI ranked 187 nations according to three criteria: the standard of living of its people, its population's access to knowledge and its population's chance of living a long and healthy life.

Norway, Australia and the Netherlands led the rankings, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Burundi were at the bottom of the list.

Other countries in the top ten included the United States, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Sweden.

However, when the index was adjusted for internal inequalities in health, education and income, some of the wealthiest nations drop out of the HDI's top 20 - the United States falls from number 4 to 23, the Republic of Korea from 15 to 32, and Israel from 17 to 25.

"The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index helps us assess better the levels of development for all segments of society, rather than for just the mythical 'average' person," said Milorad Kovacevic, chief statistician for the Human Development Report.

"We consider health and education distribution to be just as important in this equation as income, and the data show great inequities in many countries."

New Zealand's HDI value for 2011 was 0.908 - in the very high human development category, the report said.

In the 2010 HDR, New Zealand was ranked 3 out of 169 countries. It was misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports, however, because the underlying data and methods have changed, as well as the number of countries included in the HDI.

Countries which were close to New Zealand in HDI rank and population size were Australia and Ireland, which had rankings of 2 and 7 respectively.

In the report's Gender Inequality Index (GII), New Zealand had a value of 0.195, ranking it 23 out of 146 countries in the 2011 index.

The GII measures reproductive health, years of schooling, parliamentary representation, and participation in the labour market.

In New Zealand, 33.6 per cent of parliamentary seats were held by women and 71.6 per cent of adult women have reached a secondary or higher level of education compared to 73.5 of their male counterparts.

Compared to Australia and Ireland, which ranked at 18 and 33 on the index, New Zealand had a higher rate of female participation in the workforce but much higher figures for maternal mortality and adolescent fertility.

For every 100,000 live births, 14 women die from pregnancy-related causes; and the adolescent fertility rate is 30.9 births per 100 live births.

Sweden ranked number one on the GII, while Yemen ranked as the least equitable of the 146 countries followed by Chad and Niger.


* Between 1980 and 2011, New Zealand's HDI value increased from 0.800 to 0.908, an annual increase of about 0.4 per cent.

* In that same period, life expectancy at birth increased by 7.6 years, mean years of schooling increased by 0.9 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.5 years.

* New Zealand's Gross National Income per capita increased by 42.0 per cent between 1980 and 2011.