BANGKOK (Reuters) - Norway has retained its status as the world's most desirable country to live in, according to U.N. data released on Monday, which ranks sub-Saharan African states afflicted by war and HIV/AIDS as the least attractive places.
Data collected prior to the global economic crisis showed people in Norway, Australia and Iceland had the best living standards, while Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone scored worst in terms of human development.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) index was compiled using 2007 data on GDP per capita, education, and life expectancy, and showed marked differences between the developed and developing world.
"Despite significant improvements over time, progress has been uneven," UNDP said in a statement.
"Many countries have experienced setbacks over recent decades, in the face of economic downturns, conflict-related crises and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and this was even before the impact of the global economic crisis was felt."
Life expectancy in Niger was 50, about 30 years shorter than Norway, according to the index. For every dollar earned per person in Niger, $85 was earned in Norway.
Half the people in the poorest 24 countries were illiterate, compared to 20 percent in nations classed as having medium levels of human development, the index showed.
Japanese people lived longer than others, to 82.7 years on average, with life expectancy in war-ravaged Afghanistan just 43.6 years.
Liechtenstein has the highest GDP per capita at $85,383 in a tiny principality home to 35,000 people, 15 banks and more than 100 wealth management companies.
People were poorest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where average income per person was $298 per year.
Five countries -- China, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and France -- climbed three or more places from the previous year, driven by greater earnings and longer life expectancy. China, Colombia and Venezuela also scored better due to improvements in education.
UNDP, which has published the index annually since 1990, said human development had improved globally by 15 percent since 1980, with China, Iran and Nepal the biggest climbers in the chart.
Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Jason Szep and Ron Popeski