Five things that are wrong with the world's best country

  • 18 December 2015
  • From the section Europe
View taken on April 17, 2015 of a Fjord near Unstad beach, in the Lofoten Islands within the Arctic Circle Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Norway: Where the taxes are almost as high as the mountains

Norway is a nice place to live. This information should not come as a shock to anyone.

This week, the UN said Norway is the nicest country in the world to live - for the 12th year in a row.

Its annual Human Development Index, released this week, ranks 188 countries according to life expectancy, education and income or standard of living.

Norway ranked top, and also has one of the highest average wages on the list - some $62,500 (£41,900) per capita.

For context, this is who came next:

  • Australia
  • Switzerland
  • Denmark
  • Netherlands
  • Germany/Ireland

The United Kingdom comes 14th, and the US eighth. (We'll bring you the lowest-ranking countries later on.)

But is life in the world's nicest country all it's made out to be? Most of those surveyed, mainly Norwegians, said yes. But, for balance, here are some aspects of Norwegian life that don't tick everyone's boxes.

Taxes, taxes, taxes

Norway has one of the highest rates of personal income tax in the world, at some 39%. It has been even higher - at 47.5%, but is now dropping.

Having said that, it's lower than the highest rate in the UK. And the US. And France.

Drowning your spirits

Image copyright PA
Image caption It might be better to do this in Tajikistan rather than Norway

If your Norwegian tax bill is bad news, wait until you try to buy a beer.

The website, on which drinkers can log how much they have paid for a drink, says a pint (0.57 litres) of beer in Norway is the second-most expensive in the world, at £7 ($10.40).

If you want to save some money, head to Tajikistan, where a pint would set you back a mere 30p ($0.45).


Norway has the second-highest rate of deaths by drug overdose in Europe - 70 per million, compared to a European average of only 16 per million. Only Estonia has a higher rate, and that is dropping.

The high cost of drugs has been cited in studies as a factor in addicts choosing to inject, rather than smoke, drugs to get a more powerful hit. But Associated Press, in a report last month, said leaders of Norway's two largest cities, Oslo and Bergen, were now looking at radical new policies to solve the problem.

Petrol prices

Anyone driving to a shop to pick up beer might have to remortgage their house.

Petrol prices are also among the top few highest in the world, alongside the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Djibouti - today, the average price for a litre of unleaded petrol is around €1.49 (£1.09; $1.61).

The reason is those pesky taxes again - but when you bear in mind how much higher the average wage is, the price doesn't appear to be too bad.

It's bad if you're a wolf

We're clutching at straws a little here. But the Guardian reported earlier this month that there may be only 30 wolves living in the wild in Norway - and that licences are being issued to hunt 16 of them.

There is no risk of the licences not being taken up - 11,571 people have applied so far.

And the lowest-ranked countries are...

Right at the bottom is Niger - with 16 other African countries above it (Central African Republic, Eritrea and Chad are directly above Niger). Syria, wracked by more than four years of civil war, is 134th out of 188.

The UN Development Programme, which compiled the list, says the average annual income in Niger is $908 (£605) and children receive, on average, only five years of education.

The US State Department warns against travelling to Niger, saying the country is a target of terror attacks, with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb especially active.

And on top of that, on Thursday, its president announced a plot to overthrow him in a coup had failed.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption One Nigerien BBC journalist said its lowly status was unfair

But is its status as the world's least liveable country deserved?

"I was very surprised to see Niger at the bottom of the list again," says Elhadji Coulibaly, a Nigerien presenter with BBC Hausa. "I was there last month for the first time since 2009 and I saw a lot of good changes.

"When I was young, in a small town, there was one school. Now there are up to 10. There are lots of roads and flyovers being built, modern houses being built, everything growing like mushrooms.

"I am not saying it is 100% perfect, it's not. But it is changing and this is not a fair reflection."

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