Switzerland named most developed nation on earth by UN, global score falls

Switzerland named most developed nation on earth by UN, global score falls

The 2021 edition of the Human Development Index (HDI) by the United Nations has ranked Switzerland as the most developed nation on Earth, because of high incomes from business and salaries, and a high life expectancy. Due to the COVID pandemic, and other crises around the world, the UN found that since 2020, overall human development has regressed by five years.

The 2021 Human Development Index by UNDP

The Human Development Index (HDI) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a “summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living.” To calculate each nation’s score, the ranking uses the following metrics:

  • Life expectancy at birth
  • Number of mandatory years in the school system
  • The average amount of time spent at school or higher education
  • Gross national income per capita (measured in US dollars)

For the first time since the ranking was created in 1990, the global HDI average has fallen for two years in a row. The UNDP noted that the last two years have “undone” the achievements of the last five. The COVID pandemic and a series of other crises were blamed for the global decline, meaning "we die earlier, are less well educated [and] our incomes are falling," UNDP chief Achim Steiner told the AFP news agency.

"We've had catastrophes before. We used to have conflicts too. But the current confluence of multiple crises is a major setback for human development," Steiner noted. The study found that 90 percent of all countries were affected by the decline, with Niger, Chad and South Sudan placing at the bottom of the list.

Switzerland ranked as most developed nation on Earth

After coming in third in 2020, with an index value of 0,962, Switzerland was ranked as the most developed nation on Earth in 2021. Switzerland improved on its score from last year because of an increase in life expectancy after the peak of the COVID pandemic, from 83,1 years in 2020 to 84 years in 2021. The alpine nation was also helped along by a 1.922-dollar increase in per capita gross national income, which now totals 66.933 dollars per person.

The top three was rounded out by Norway and Iceland, with Hong Kong and Australia making the top five. Germany found itself among the 90 percent of countries which saw their scores drop, falling from seventh in 2020 to ninth in 2021, mainly due to a fall in life expectancy. 

10 most developed nations in the world in 2021

In all, the 10 most developed countries on Earth in 2021, according to the Human Development Index, were:

  1. Switzerland (0,962)
  2. Norway (0,961)
  3. Iceland (0,959)
  4. Hong Kong (0,952)
  5. Australia (0,951)
  6. Denmark (0,948)
  7. Sweden (0,947)
  8. Ireland (0,945)
  9. Germany (0,942)
  10. The Netherlands (0,941)

For more information about how the ranking was calculated, check out the UNDP website.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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