UPDATE 1-Norway best, Zimbabwe worst places to live - U.N.

Thu Nov 4, 2010 6:25pm GMT

* Rating combines prosperity, health, education

* Over 40 years, most countries better off, U.N. says (Adds comment by UNDP chief, paragraph 13)

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Oil-rich Norway remains the best country in the world to live in, while Zimbabwe, afflicted by economic crisis and AIDS, is the least desirable, according to an annual U.N. rating released on Thursday.

The assessment came in a so-called human development index, a measure of well-being published by the U.N. Development Program for the past 20 years that combines individual economic prosperity with education levels and life expectancy.

The UNDP placed Norway, Australia and New Zealand at the top and Niger -- last year's back-marker -- the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe at the bottom, as Western countries again led the list while sub-Saharan African nations trailed.

Japan headed the field in life expectancy, at 83.6 years, with Afghanistan last at little more than half of that -- 44.6 years. The tiny Alpine state of Liechtenstein had by far the highest per capita annual income -- $81,011, 460 times higher than last-placed Zimbabwe on $176.

Overall, the index contained some significant changes near the top compared with last year, with the United States rising to fourth from 13th and Iceland -- hard hit by the global financial crisis -- plummeting to 17th from third.

But UNDP officials said the figures were not fully comparable due to changes in calculation methods this year.   Continued...

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