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17 December, 2020

Where to move to in 2021: UN ranking of countries with high living standards

The United Nations has ranked countries according to their level of human development. It ranks 189 countries worldwide. We tell you how the UN ranks countries and who tops the list.

Human Development Index 2020: the UN's ranking of the world's countries
Photo: Adobe Stock

The ranking is carried out by experts from the United Nations Development Programme. It is a global network of institutions that helps countries fight poverty and inequality, achieve sustainable economies, monitor climate change and tackle the effects of natural disasters.

The UN has been compiling the Human Development Index rankings since 1990. Experts study a large amount of statistical data, so the results are published a year late.

In a December 2020 report, the UN also calculated how much carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere and how much resources the state uses per capita

To measure the progress of countries, the UN calculates the Human Development Index every year. It reflects the level of health, education and the economy. It used to be called the "standard of living index" or "quality of life index".

The Human Development Index is a numerical value between 0 and 1. The closer the result is to one, the higher the country's ranking position. The index with environmental indicators has no effect on a country's ranking position: it is shown in a separate column of the table.

Top 10 countries in the world in 2019

PlaceCountryHuman Development Index (HDI)HDI including environmental pressures
1 Norway0,9570,781
2 Ireland0,9550,833
3 Switzerland0,9550,825
4 Hong Kong0,949
5 Iceland0,9490,768
6 Germany0,9470,814
7 Sweden0,9450,817
9 Netherlands0,9440,794
10 Denmark0,9400,824

How the UN ranks countries

The United Nations Development Programme evaluates states according to three main categories: health, education and income. For example, life expectancy, average years of schooling for children and adults, and per capita gross national product are taken into account.

The list of parameters for assessing countries is constantly expanding. In 2010, experts started taking into account the Gender Inequality Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index. And in 2020, new environmental parameters were added: carbon dioxide emissions and per capita resource use.

The UN considers "environmental pressures" to be one of the most important categories for assessing countries in today's world. Climate change has a direct impact on people's well-being. For example, while the developed world has about 18 days of extreme weather per year, poor countries have to cope with the elements from 100 days each year. In such a situation, states have no way of improving the standard of living of their citizens.

The scores of countries in all dimensions are reduced to a mean value between 0 and 1. Depending on the result, experts place countries into four categories:

  • 0.8 to 1 - countries with a very high HDI;
  • 0.7 to 0.8 - countries with high HDI;
  • 0.55 to 0.7 - medium HDI countries;
  • Under 0.55 - countries with low HDI.

The index with environmental parameters is calculated separately. Both HDI values will be equal if the country has no negative impact on nature. But so far, no country in the world has achieved such a result.

The UN believes that nations can improve their performance if they comply with the Paris climate agreement. Countries must also tackle any inequalities in society and focus on innovation and modernechnology in their decision-making.

How to move to a country with a high Human Development Index

The 13 countries in the UN ranking are states that allow citizenship or residence permits to be granted for investment. We have tabulated their results for 2019.

Ranking of countries with investment programmes

PlaceCountryHuman Development Index (HDI)HDI Including environmental pressures
2 Switzerland0,9550,825
28 Malta0,8950,794
32 Greece0,8880,768
48 Montenegro0,8290,738
St Kitts and Nevis
Antigua and barbuda
St Lucia
94 Dominica0,742
140 Vanuatu0,6090,592

To obtain citizenship or a residence permit for investments in these countries, you have to invest money in the state's economy. Each country sets a minimum amount and options for investment.

A residence permit in Switzerland for financially independent persons is suitable for those who are prepared to live in the country for at least 183 days a year. To obtain a residence permit, you have to pay an annual lump sum tax of ₣ 250,000 and more per year.

Residence permits in the UK are granted for investments in businesses or government bonds from £2 million. You can get a residence permit in as little as 2-3 months.

A residence permit in Austria for financially independent persons is suitable for relocation if the investor has no plans to work or conduct business in the country. Not everyone can become an Austrian resident - the state issues up to 450 quotas each year.

Maltese citizenship can be obtained by special merit - by naturalisation on the basis of direct investment. The foreigner first obtains a residence permit, and after a year or three years can apply for citizenship. If approved, the foreigner invests from 690,000 € and becomes a Maltese citizen.

Under the residence permit programme in Portugal, a foreigner invests money in one of eight options. He buys real estate, invests in a business or venture capital fund, opens a deposit in a bank, finances scientific research or cultural projects. The minimum investment amount is €250,000.

Montenegrin citizenship can be obtained by investing from 350,000 € in the construction of tourist facilities.

The Caribbean passport is issued for investment in five states in the region. You can transfer money to a government fund, invest in real estate or business, or buy government bonds. The minimum investment amount is $100,000.

The Vanuatu citizenship programme is the fastest in the world. Under its terms, an investor receives a second passport in 1-2 months. To participate, you must invest from $130,000 in the National Development Fund.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence programmes for investment. If you are interested in one of the countries, contact the investment programme experts for advice.

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Where to move to in 2021: UN ranking of countries with high living standards