New index ranks S'pore 4th in the world for human development, after Hong Kong, Japan & Iceland

Money is considered important -- as long as it increases life length.

Belmont Lay | December 20, 2018, 12:26 AM

Singapore is number four in the world -- for how well people live their lives in the current economic condition.

This is according to a new index called the Human Life Indicator.

Top 10 countries according to Human Life Indicator:

1. Hong Kong

2. Japan

3. Iceland

4. Singapore

5. Spain

6. Italy

7. Switzerland

8. Sweden

9. Norway

10. Australia

Singapore is number four in this new ranking behind Asian countries Hong Kong and Japan, but ahead of Switzerland and Australia -- traditionally perceived as countries with higher quality of life.

Starting point of Human Life Indicator

The Human Life Indicator authors argue that an economy with many disadvantaged people dying young and many rich people dying old is considered worse off than an economy with most of the population living about the same age.

In other words, a society is better off when most of the population live till they are of an older age together.

The authors' starting point was that money matters -- only to the extent that it increases life length.

This is why the United States dropped all the way to 32nd in the Human Life Indicator, even though it was ranked 10th by the Human Development Index.

Likewise, Germany went from fourth down to 25th.

This occurs due to the economic inequality that exists in these countries, where the rich generally live longer than the less well-off.

“More equal” economies, on the other hand, rose in rank.

Japan, largely egalitarian in this respect, moved up to second place from 17th.

Spain went from 27th to fifth, and Italy from 26th to sixth.

New indicator slightly different

The new index is supposed to be simpler and more accurate than the United Nations Human Development Index.

While the Human Development Index measures life expectancy at birth, expected years of schooling, and economic conditions -- introduced by the UN in 1990 -- Human Life Indicator focuses on human living conditions and the economic growth of a country.

Human Life Indicator takes into account inequality-adjusted life expectancy at birth.

This means that the new index prioritises “progress toward reducing inequality” in human development, and it produced significantly different results than the Human Development Index

In layman terms: Economic growth should not be confused with improvements to living conditions.


However, the Human Life Indicator and the Human Development Index still correlates.

“In our index, a country is not more developed just because it is richer. It is more developed only if it manages to increase the quality and hence the quantity of life of its citizens,” one of the authors Simone Ghislandi told Japan Times.

"Economic growth matters only to the extent that society can benefit from it in terms of improved living conditions,” Ghislandi also said.

Human Life Indicator authors

Human Life Indicator was published in a study in November 2018 by the Population and Development Review.

It was co-authored by Simone Ghislandi of Bocconi University in Milan and his colleagues Warren Sanderson and Sergei Scherbov.