Norway is the world’s top ranked country in the recently released United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) 2019. Switzerland and Ireland occupy the next two positions while Germany is tied with Hong Kong at fourth.

Not surprisingly, developed countries dominate the rankings, with 21 out of the top 30 countries in the HDI rankings being European. The top ten countries in the index are all from either Europe or Asia Pacific.

Canada is ranked 13th, while United Kingdom and United States are tied at the 15th place. The top ranked country in South America is Chile (42) while that in mainland Africa is Algeria (82). Russia is ranked 49th.

Ireland is ranked at number three in the Human Development Index 2019
Ireland is ranked at number three in the Human Development Index 2019

Top 20 Countries in Human Development

Each country has an HDI value assigned to it based on the level of its human growth and development. The top 20 countries in the Human Development Index 2019 all have an HDI value between 0.96 and 0.91. They are ranked as follows.

  1. Norway
  2. Switzerland
  3. Ireland
  4. Germany
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Australia
  7. Iceland
  8. Sweden
  9. Singapore
  10. Netherlands
  11. Denmark
  12. Finland
  13. Canada
  14. New Zealand
  15. United Kingdom
  16. United States
  17. Belgium
  18. Liechtenstein
  19. Japan
  20. Austria
Map showing country scores for HDI 2019 - Countries by HDI
Map showing country scores in HDI 2019 (Courtesy JackintheBox commons.wikimedia.org)

The level of human development strongly corresponds to the level of prosperity in a country. Consequently, many of the leading countries in human development are also among the happiest countries in the world, and oftentimes home to the world’s safest cities.

The least HDI values belong to the poorer countries where many people lack basic health and educational facilities. Most of these countries are in the African continent. However, political stability and armed conflicts in a country also directly impact its level of human development. This explains why war-torn countries, such as Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan, have lower HDI values compared to their neighbors.

Human Development Index

The Human Development Index (HDI) has been computed annually since 1990 by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The HDI was developed by Mahbub ul Haq, a Pakistani economist. It aims to measure human development and welfare in broader terms instead of relying on income figures alone.

The HDI is updated annually and released as part of the Human Development Report, prepared independently by the UNDP. The HDI, with its emphasis on the human dimension, is among the most commonly used indicators of development today. 

Rankings Criteria

The HDI is based on three major dimensions of human life: health, education, and income. These three dimensions together represent people’s standard of living and the ease of access to basic facilities. The HDI is constructed using the averages of life expectancy at birth, expected schooling years, mean schooling years, and gross national income (GNI) per capita.

Since 2010, inequality-adjusted indexes have also been included in the Human Development Report to better reflect the state of economic and social inequality across countries.

Impact of health, education, and income on human life (HDI 2019)

The 189 countries included in the Human Development Index are categorized into four levels of human development: very high, high, medium, and low, depending on their HDI values. The top 62 countries, with an HDI value of 0.8 or greater, are all in the “very high” category. The HDI value for the world as a whole is 0.731, which places it in the “high” category – ranked 93rd among countries.

The Human Development Report 2019 is available for download on the UNDP website.