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Canada 4th Best Place To Live: UN

Posted on Friday, July 16 at 21:28 by canadaka

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By: Alexander Panetta | Canadian PressCanada is moving up in the world - to No. 4 - according to the United Nations' wide-ranging annual survey on human development. Having tumbled in recent years from its long-held top ranking to eighth place in 2003, Canada regained some lost ground in the 2004 UN Human Development Index, released today.

Three countries placed higher on this year's survey - Norway, followed by Sweden and Australia - while Canada was ranked just ahead of the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland and the United States. But the marginal differences among the UN's top 10 countries pale in comparison to the widening gulf between the globe's haves and have-nots. All but three of the 30 lowest-ranked countries were in Africa, one of several disheartening statistics in a survey that underscored the brutal impact of AIDS on that continent. While average Canadian life expectancy is edging up toward 80 years in keeping with developed world trends, life spans in AIDS-ravaged Africa continue tracking in the opposite direction. In Zimbabwe - where the life expectancy was 56 years in the early 1970s - it is now 33.1 years. In Zambia, it's 32.4 years and it's 34.2 in Sierra Leone. That war-ravaged west African country remains at the bottom of the index for the seven consecutive year, ranked 177th. About 30 nations were not included because of insufficient data, including Afghanistan and Iraq. The UN has consistently warned national governments to avoid gloating over high rankings, arguing they don't offer a complete portrait of life in any given country. "Canada is at the top of the human-development ranking," said Ricardo Fuentes, a statistical specialist at UN headquarters in New York City. "All the countries in the vicinity of Canada are very close. The human-development index is like a photo finish for all the highly developed countries." He said three factors contributed to Canada's bounce: A rise in GDP per capita to $29,480 (from $27,130 last year); an increase in life expectancy to 79.3 years (from 79.2 last year); and a small spike in schooling levels. But the main factor in Canada's improved standing - the GDP increase - is somewhat of a statistical technicality. The UN relies on estimates from the World Bank, which revised its formula for calculating per capita GDP. Canada would have risen to sixth place under the old formula, Fuentes said. The UN ranking includes a variety of criteria, including health, education, life expectancy, income, poverty levels and environmental quality. Among the findings: Canada's population was aging at about the average rate among countries ranked in the top 10, with the number of seniors set to outweigh the under-15 population well before 2015. Canada has fallen far behind numerous countries in public education spending as a percentage of the overall economy, spending only 5.2 per cent of GDP on learning in 1999-2001, down from 6.5 per cent in 1990. Denmark (8.3 per cent), Sweden (7.3), Norway (6.8), France (5.7) and the U.S. (5.6) were among many countries with better records. Per capita health spending - $2,792 for private and public care combined - was third among the top 10 countries, short of Norway's $2,920 and far behind the whopping $4,887 in the U.S. Cell phone usage in Canada was extremely low compared with other developed countries and was by far the lowest among the top 25. Canada claimed 377 cell phones per 1,000 residents in 2002, compared with well over 700 per 1,000 in most of the other countries ranked in the top 25. But Canadian use of the Internet - 512 per 1,000 in Canada - ranked among the highest in the world. To former prime minister Jean Chrétien, Canada's erstwhile No. 1 ranking was a favourite arrow in his political quiver. He would use the status to rail against Quebec separatists and other political opponents, accusing them of complaining about "the best country in the world." The UN index first placed Canada at the top of its rankings in 1992. Canada maintained the No. 1 spot for almost a decade before dropping to third in 2001, behind Norway and Sweden.

Canada fell another five rankings in 2002, dropping back of Australia and the U.S.




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