The Economist reported this week that Australia could supplant California as the “golden state of the future”. Whether or not we quite see California (San Andreas et al) still as the world’s golden state, the London-based newsmagazine looked ahead to Australia as “a country of about 25m people, democratic, tolerant, welcoming to immigrants, socially harmonious, politically stable and economically successful; good beaches too.”
The “But” was said to be tertiary education. “Australia’s universities, like its wine, are decent and dependable but seldom excellent,” sniffed The Economist. While we can see the so-so placing of the country’s universities in the world league tables, we could argue a bit about the wine…But I decided to do my own, very individual analysis of which country might be best to live and grow old in.
Taking the OECD’s 11 largest economies (Australia is No.11), I decided to rank countries according to the factors that (I think) make them desirable (or not) places in which to live. These key factors (and my reasons for including them) are:
>Life expectancy at birth (of course)
>Practising physicians per 1,000 of the population (ditto)
>Total investment of pension funds as a % of GDP (key to economic growth as well as individual financial security)
>% of GDP accounted for by taxes (of course)
The above stats from the OECD contain some surprises. Not that South Korea and Mexico have fewer physicians pro rata, but that Canada is not far behind – and Greece (not in the top 11) is far out in front. Australia wins on life expectancy, and Italy and France come bottom on taxes (taking a whopping 43.5% and 41.9% respectively). Pension investments in Australia and then the UK account for the largest proportions of GDP.
I am not pretending that this is anything more than a subjective and selective sample of statistics (OECD has piles more of them coming out of their ears and web sites). But this handful of stats does provide an (alright slightly sideways) guide to what might make some countries more desirable places in which to live over the longterm. So, I multiplied together the first three stats in the list above and then divided each total by the percentage of each country’s GDP left after deducting corporate and personal taxes.
This is what came out of the blender:
10. South Korea
Please don’t expect plaudits for this survey from The Economist anytime soon. After all, the country with arguably the greatest wine tradition (France) comes last while “decent, dependable” Australia steals the gold. And, oh yes, the lucky country is celebrating 20 years (and counting) since it last experienced recession.