France offers the greatest quality of life in the world, according to the latest ranking from International Living magazine, a leading resource for helping people live, travel, and prosper overseas, while war-torn Iraq remains in last place.
An interesting fact in this year's edition is that Argentina figures in the top ten of the world quality of life index and many of the countries that showed the greatest increase from a year ago are from Latinamerica.
Other Latinamerican rankings include Mexico 25; Uruguay, 28; Panama, 34; Ecuador, 38; Costa Rica, 43; Dominican Republic, 47; Brazil, 48; Chile, 49 and Cuba, 108.
To produce the annual index, International Living considers nine categories: cost of living, culture and leisure, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure, safety and risk, and climate. International Living uses statistics from a number of official government, non-profit, and media sources for much of the number crunching. IL also includes the input from International Living's extensive roster of correspondents from around the world.
International Living's 2007 Quality of Life Index Highlights: Leaders: 1. France 2. Australia 3. Netherlands 4. New Zealand 5. United States. 6 Switzerland; 7 Denmark, 8 Italy, 9 Luxembourg, 10 Argentina, 11 Norway, 12 Belgium, 13 Germany, 14 Spain, 15 Austria, 16 Finland, 17 Malta, 18 Croatia, 19 Liechtenstein and 20 Portugal. United Kingdom figures number 37 and Canada, 25.
Despite high taxes, bureaucracy, and a high cost of living, France "has a good climate, unspoiled countryside, and great health care. And its capital, Paris, is arguably the world's most beautiful and romantic city on earth," said Laura Sheridan, Managing Editor of International Living magazine, who conducted the study.
"Add to all this world-competitive infrastructure and you can understand why we'd name France the world's best place to live."
The United States, which had ranked at the top of the charts for an impressive 21 consecutive years until being dethroned in last year's survey, regained its footing, and climbed back to the number 5 slot from number 7 in last year's survey.
The United States' fall in the rankings last year was due to a decline in its freedom score. That score remains significantly lower than its peer countries at the top of the chart, and is one of the primary reasons it is not higher in the rankings.
Six of the top 10 positions in this year's survey were taken over by European countries.
Other highs and lows: Lowest cost of living: Nauru (it's an island in the Pacific). Best Infrastructure: United States. Most Corrupt: Haiti. Best for culture: Italy. Best climate: Zimbabwe. Best to register a new company: Australia. Longest life expectancy: Andorra.
Fastest Risers: Dominican Republic up 50 positions, El Salvador up 49 positions, Vietnam up 46 positions, Botswana up 42 positions, Kuwait up 42 positions, Costa Rica up 38 positions.
Falling behind: Iran down 43 positions, Russia down 43 positions, Swaziland down 43 positions, Papua New Guinea down 38 positions, Israel down 37 positions.