Exploring the World’s Top Countries with the Best Quality of Life – NBC US


Top Countries with the Best Quality of Life statistics

The term quality of life can mean different things to different people. Indeed, the official definition provided by the WHO stipulates that it means an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards, and concerns.”

The definition, centering on the individual, nevertheless has implications for the population as a whole. Various international organizations, like the UN, conduct work assessing the quality of life in different countries.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is the UN’s annual report on the results of this work and has been released every year, with the exception of 2020-2021, due to the COVID pandemic.

The 2021-2022 HDI report has been invaluable to us in preparing this guide to the world’s top countries with the best quality of life. In addition to the index, we used Numbeo’s database, reports by US News and Yahoo, and other published resources. 

Top Countries with the Best Quality of Life

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These countries have an HDI score of at least 0.9, indicating very high living standards and great opportunities. Let’s learn a bit more about them. 

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Our first five entries span the Western world, from the east coast of the Mediterranean to the North American continent and include the largest economy in the world. Let’s get started.

25. Austria

HDI 2021 Score: 0.916

Widely considered one of the safest countries in the world, Austria has an OECD safety rating of 9.3, an average life expectancy of 82 years, and an HDI 2021 score of 0.916. On top of that, it has an impressive cultural scene, and its proximity to the rest of Europe makes it a very convenient base.

Due to its landlocked placement and proximity to the mountains, the Austrian climate isn’t the hottest in the region – you get quite cold winters and relatively hot summers. The average salary of over $2,600 can set you up well, but the cost of living can be high.

24. Malta

Malta: Life expectancy at birth from 2011 to 2021

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.918

Thanks to its Mediterranean climate and leisurely pace of life, Malta is a popular tourist and expat destination, and the tiny European island nation has an HDI score of 0.918. The life expectancy of 83 years, combined with a relatively inexpensive cost of living, draws people in from around the world.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that abortion is fully illegal in Malta, which can pose serious health risks. The level of bureaucracy in Malta is also worse than in continental Europe. 

23. Slovenia

HDI 2021 Score: 0.918

The only former Yugoslavian state on this list is Slovenia, which received an HDI score matching Malta’s at 0.918. Despite its small size, Slovenia is a hidden gem with a beautiful landscape and a mild climate, making it very attractive to expats – that is if they can learn the complex language.

Average monthly wages are around $2,300-$2,400, and the country’s life expectancy is 82 years. Slovenia has the highest OECD safety ranking on the list at 9.7. However, this high level of safety may mean a certain degree of boredom for some people.

22. Israel

Digital Quality of Life index in Israel from 2021 to 2022

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.919

Israel is home to some incredible tech talent and a very robust healthcare system. It is the only Middle Eastern country on the list and has an HDI score of 0.919. Israel’s average life expectancy is 83 years.

A strong sense of community is very prevalent in the country, and despite its ongoing conflict with Palestine, the nation is tolerant of many religious groups.

A skilled professional can earn over $3,300 per month in Israel. However, you should be aware that it’s the world’s most expensive developed country and that all Israeli citizens and permanent residents are subject to military conscription, with only a few exceptions.

21. United States of America

HDI 2021 Score: 0.921

It’s not a stretch to think that one of the world’s largest economies would be on this list. The US is an expensive country, but it offers high wages for many professions to match the cost of living and has an HDI 2021 index score of 0.921.

The average monthly wage in 2023 is $4,640 – which can get you further in some cities than others – but the work-life balance is a lot worse than in many other nations. Due to the country’s size, its climate varies from state to state, from the cold winters of Vermont to hot and humid Florida.

The cost of healthcare in the US can be prohibitive, and the average life expectancy of 79 years is lower than in many other countries listed. The OECD ranks its safety at 7.6 – below that of its northern neighbor and many European states. Abortion is also now illegal or quasi-illegal in a number of states.

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The countries in the middle of our rating, in spots 20-16, are located in Asia and Europe, and some of them are among the smallest in the world. Let’s dive in.

20. South Korea

South Korea average temperature

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.925

This small country may border a hostile state, but that hasn’t stopped South Korea from getting an HDI score of 0.925. The OECD considers South Korea a safe country, with a score of 8.8.

Like many other Asian countries, it has a high life expectancy of 83 years. On average, you can earn over $3,000 per month working in Seoul, although the country can be expensive.

If you love Korean food and culture and have a good job, you’ll do well there. However, be aware that the monsoon climate leads to very hot and wet summers and cold winters. The level of pollution in South Korea is also higher than in many other countries listed here.

19. Japan

HDI 2021 Score: 0.925

Japan‘s beautiful nature, culture, and tech advancements are big draws for tourists and expats alike. The country’s HDI 2021 score of 0.925 is on par with South Korea’s.

If you’re willing to put in the effort to learn the Japanese language and the nation’s customs, you can secure a good job with an average salary of $3,000However, the work-life balance in Japan is almost non-existent, so be prepared for very long working days.

Japan is famous for its emphasis on longevity, and its average life expectancy is almost 85 years – one of the highest on the list. Some drawbacks of living in Japan are its high risk of natural disasters, hot and humid summers, and smaller living spaces than you might be used to.

18. United Kingdom

Cost of living increases statistics

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.929

Despite Brexit, the ongoing shortcomings of the healthcare system, and the cost-of-living crisis, the UK managed to get an HDI score of 0.929. With its strong currency, well-known tech ecosystem, and beautiful locations, London and other UK cities can be attractive places to work.

The UK’s average life expectancy of 81 years is slightly lower than many other countries. Despite relatively high salaries, high living costs and immigration fees, which are due to increase, can put off many expats from choosing the UK as their destination.

In addition, finding a property without paying a six-month deposit upfront can be a challenge in many British cities today.

17. Luxembourg

HDI 2021 Score: 0.93

Luxembourg is popular with foreigners, who can earn over $6,000 per month while living there. The tiny country in the heart of Europe scored an HDI score just above the UK’s, at 0.93

Its size and proximity to other EU states means you can easily travel to neighboring countries to explore new horizons. Its life expectancy of 83 years and the OECD’s safety score of 9.4 also make it an attractive destination.

However, due to its size, it may be hard to find accommodation in the country. Also, as with many other countries listed, high salaries are matched by high costs and taxes.

16. Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein: Life expectancy at birth from 2011 to 2021

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.935

The smallest country on our list and one of the smallest nations in the world has an HDI rating of 0.935. Liechtenstein may be tiny and have a population of just 40,000 people, but its excellent infrastructure and beautiful scenery make it a real gem in terms of the quality of life.

Unlike Luxembourg, it’s not a popular expat destination since it only offers a limited number of residence permits per year. But if you’re lucky enough to secure one, you might earn an average salary of over $6,000 per month. 

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These five countries touch the four corners of the Earth, from Asia to the Pacific to North America to northern Europe, and include countries with some of the highest GDP per capita ratings in the world.

15. Canada

HDI 2021 Score: 0.936

Canada is spectacular in all four seasons, with snow-white winters and hot summers that sometimes reach 30C. Its beautiful landscapes and universal healthcare are big draws for expats all over – and the world’s second-biggest country is in the 15th spot, with an HDI 2021 score of 0.936

Canada’s life expectancy of 82 years, average monthly wages of $3,500, high safety index, and good work-life balance are just some of the reasons for its high quality of life ratings.

However, keep in mind that for many countries on our list, including Canada, high salaries mean high taxes and expensive living. In addition, its vast area can make traveling harder, which isn’t as much of a problem in Europe. 

14. New Zealand

New Zealand European population media age statistics

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.937

New Zealand can be a great country to live in, with its nearly perfect climate and beautiful landscapes, which have been featured in many films. This beautiful corner of the South Pacific earned an HDI score of 0.937.

It’s one of the safest countries in the world and has a life expectancy of 82 years, like Canada. New Zealand’s egalitarian culture and high monthly salaries of $3,700 on average make it attractive to live and work in. 

However, a major downside of New Zealand is that it’s very remote, and you’re somewhat cut off from the world – something that was felt very acutely during the pandemic. Also, it’s very quiet, so you might miss the bustle of large cities if you move to NZ.

13. Belgium

HDI 2021 Score: 0.937

The land world-famous for chocolate unsurprisingly appears on this list, having earned the same HDI score as New Zealand, at 0.937.

Like its Benelux counterparts, Belgium is popular with people worldwide, thanks to its robust socioeconomic system and proximity to most major European destinations.

With its mild climate, a life expectancy of 82 years, and an average monthly salary of $5,400, building a life in Belgium means enjoying a very high standard of living, indeed.

Of course, each country has its downsides, and Belgium is no exception. Since Brussels is considered a center of Europe, it’s an expensive city and can get very crowded. What’s more, taxes are very high compared to other countries.

12. Singapore

HDI 2021 Score: 0.939

Singapore is very popular among expats with its equatorial location, its wide use of English, and its excellent business environment. The city-state in South East Asia received an HDI score of 0.939 in 2021

Unlike most other countries listed, the Singaporean climate is amazing all year round, with temperatures hovering around 30C. And thanks to the climate and the top-class healthcare system, life expectancy in Singapore is about 84 years.

Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world, thanks to its robust legal system. Working there can earn you over $4,500 per month. However, it’s also an expensive country, where accommodation and vehicle care cost a lot of money. Additionally, unlike the Nordic countries, Singapore’s work-life balance is far from ideal.

11. Finland

Finland: Life expectancy at birth from 2011 to 2021

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.94

Unsurprisingly, the country that’s frequently ranked as the happiest in the world is quite high on our list. Not only does Finland have an HDI 2021 score of 0.94, but it also has a full 10 out of 10 from the OECD for satisfaction with life and a 9.3 for safety.

Finland is one of the cleanest countries in the world and has among the most progressive social welfare and healthcare systems. With an average monthly wage of $4,410 and an egalitarian work culture, life in Finland can make you very happy indeed. In Finland, you can expect an average life expectancy of 82 years.

However, it might not be easy to get used to the Finnish climate. With very dark and cold winters and summer temperatures rarely exceeding 20C, it can take some adjustment. Additionally, the Finnish people are very reserved, and the taxes are very high, which can be a shock.

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This corner of our list is situated firmly in northern and western Europe but includes a range of economies and cultures.

10. The Netherlands

HDI 2021 Score: 0.941

Opening our top ten countries with the best quality of life is the Netherlands. The land of tulips and stroopwafels earned an HDI 2021 score of 0.941 – slightly higher than Finland.

The Netherlands is famous for its great work-life balance. Its average monthly salary of $3,086 can ensure a good standard of living without resorting to the “live to work” mentality. It’s a very safe country, as well, with an OECD safety score of 8.9. Dutch life expectancy is also quite high, at around 82 years.

Some of the downsides of living in the Netherlands are the high taxes and the shortage of properties arising from the country’s small size. It also doesn’t have the hottest summers – average temperatures rarely exceed 17C.

9. Germany

Germany: Life expectancy at birth from 2011 to 2021

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.942

Germany is 9th in our rating, having earned an HDI score of 0.942 – slightly higher than its neighbor, the Netherlands. Like the US, Germany is one of the largest economies in the world and is a popular country for work, with a strong culture and robust social security, transport, and healthcare systems in place.

The country’s safety is ranked 8.3. German life expectancy is 81 years, and its climate varies from season to season, with summer temperatures sometimes reaching as high as 35C.

However, if you’re looking to work on a beach, Germany might not be the right choice. Despite the average salary being $4,900, some German cities like Munich can be expensive to live in. However, the cost of living varies across the country.

8. Ireland

HDI 2021 Score: 0.945

Ireland’s rich culture, low pollution levels, and tech-friendly environment make it a popular country for expats. The beautiful Emerald Isle takes the 8th spot on our list, with its HDI 2021 rating of 0.945It has a high life expectancy of 83 years and a high safety index of 8.3 – on par with Germany. 

The Irish climate is mild compared to other northern countries, but it’s very wet, and average summer temperatures rarely reach 20C. In terms of finances, the Irish average monthly salary of $3,880 is higher than the UK’s, but the cost of living in Ireland is also higher.

7. Sweden

Sweden: Life expectancy at birth from 2011 to 2021

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.947

Like Finland, Sweden is a Nordic country with a very high quality of life, which earned it an HDI 2021 score of 0.947Despite its northern situation, the Swedish climate is fairly mild, and average summer temperatures can reach up to 24C.

The country is very high-tech and has a very solid healthcare system and low levels of pollution – and it has a high life expectancy of 83 years.

Sweden’s OECD safety rating is similar to that in Ireland – 8.6. As a Scandinavian country, it’s generally considered expensive, although less so than its neighbor Norway. Its average monthly salary is $2,770, but that goes further than the equivalent in the UK, especially in terms of rent.

6. Denmark

HDI 2021 Score: 0.948

Consistently ranked as one of the world’s happiest countries, Denmark comes sixth in our rating with an HDI 2021 score of 0.948As a country with among the greatest levels of social equality, Denmark has a strong sense of community.

Its average life expectancy is 82 years, and its OECD safety rank of 9.2 is one of the highest in the world. The country is believed to be the second most peaceful country in the world, with Iceland being the first.

Compared to its Nordic neighbors, Danish summers are warmer, with the average summer temperatures being above 20C. The mild climate and the country’s average monthly salary of $6,400 are important reasons for its quality of life. However, Denmark does have high taxes and living costs.

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These five countries have an HDI score of at least 0.95, strong economies, and robust systems in place. Let’s find out more about what makes their quality of life so great.

5. Australia

HDI 2021 Score: 0.951

The Land Down Under opens the top five countries on our list with an HDI 2021 score of 0.951. Australia’s high living standards and great life expectancy of 83 years are significant reasons for its high score.

Its southern situation means that average temperatures can reach 25C, although they’ve been on the rise in recent years, leading to large bushfires. Coupled with the dangerous wildlife, these fires are a big reason why Australia’s OECD safety score of 7.7 is lower than that of other listed countries.

Australia’s high average monthly wages of $3,600 can go far in feeding a family. However, the country can be quite expensive – even more so than the US.

4. Hong Kong

Hong Kong life expectancy statistics

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.952

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China but is listed here separately from the second-largest economy in the world. The highest-rated APAC appearance on our list, it has an HDI 2021 score of 0.952.

Hong Kong offers a mild sub-tropical climate, with summer temperatures reaching as high as 30C. And it has a longer life expectancy than most other entries listed here, at almost 86 years. With its low levels of crime and violence, Hong Kong is considered a very safe country.

Known as an expat haven, Hong Kong has a huge community of people from all over the world. However, that has driven up prices in the city, and the average monthly salary of $2,265 may not go as far as in other countries, like Australia. 

3. Iceland

HDI 2021 Score: 0.959

Thanks to its top-level healthcare system, beautiful vistas, and renowned gender equality, Iceland has a lot to offer. The Nordic country takes the third spot on our list thanks to its HDI 2021 score of 0.959.

It has an average life expectancy of 83 years, and the sense of community in the country is very strong. On top of that, its OECD safety index is 9.3 – higher than in many other countries listed here.

In terms of drawbacks, Iceland can get very cold, like its Scandinavian neighbors, and you’ll rarely see summer temperatures above 15C. Like other Nordic countries, it can also get quite expensive. However, Iceland is one of the highest-paid countries in the world, with an average monthly salary reaching almost $6,000.

2. Norway

Life expectancy at birth in Norway from 2011 to 2021

Source: Statista

HDI 2021 Score: 0.961

The Nordic countries offer a lot in terms of quality of life, and Norway comes in second in our rating with its HDI 2021 score of 0.961You’ve seen from the list that countries with colder climates tend to have a good quality of life, and Norway is no exception.

Despite average summer temperatures rarely reaching 18C, the land of fjords and the northern lights is one of the happiest countries in the world. What’s more, its OECD safety index is 9.9 – the highest on our list – and the average life expectancy is 83.

Of course, quality of life comes at a price. Norway is one of the world’s most expensive countries, and the climate isn’t for everyone. However, high costs come with higher salaries, and the average monthly wage is over $5,000.

1. Switzerland

Switzerland statistics

HDI 2021 Score: 0.962

The country with the best quality of life is SwitzerlandWith an HDI 2021 score of over 0.96, an average monthly salary of over $7,400, and a life expectancy of 84 years, the land of cheese, watches, and chocolate beckons those who’re looking to make a move for the better and fall in love with nature.

The country is rated 9.3 out of 10 by the OECD for safety. And strangely enough, it’s just next door to the country that’s 25th on our list.

However, the cost of living in Switzerland isn’t cheap – not surprising, given its high salaries. The country is home to some of the most expensive cities in the world, and finding a place to live can be a challenge.

On top of that, if you’re used to hustle culture, you may experience a culture shock. The Swiss greatly emphasize work-life balance, and everything is closed on Sundays.

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