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10 Best Countries In Which To Be Born in 2013 (Hint: America Isn't One Of Them)

A new quality-of-life index shows that when it comes to the best place to be born in 2013, the US is way behind.

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Kiwis, ranked number seven on the list, share many of their Aussie neighbors' lifestyle high points, with a similarly robust level of public participation and sense of community and highly-rated educational achievement. And Auckland comes only behind Zurich and Vienna as the world’s most liveable city, according to yet another of these indices, the Mercer Quality of Living surveys.

Scandinavian Countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, are all in the top 10. (Even Finland comes in at no. 11, ahead of the US.) This group of semi-socialist nations do exceptionally well in almost every ranking of this kind. That’s because it comes down to the numbers: workforces that do well without empyees killing themselves with work and a strong social safety net. Each day, Danes are able to spend about two-thirds of their hours sleeping, eating, taking care of themselves and chilling out, while Sweden has the most progressive family leave policies you can find, with a whole culture of stay-at-home dads who are encouraged to spend time with the stroller, thanks to national policy.

Singapore is one of the most consistently top-ranked Asian places to live, with an authoritarian government apparently offset by great healthcare, education and infastructure. Another city with fine infrastructure, Hong Kong, also made the list.

The Netherlands has a strong healthcare system and a complex social welfare state where collectives, co-ops, government and private industries mingle together to make sure each citizen is cared for. Back in 2009, Russel Shorto wrote a long piece for the New York Times about “going Dutch,” moving to the Netherlands. One thing he noted that’s particularly applicable to the Born Index? Childcare and help with giving birth:

The Netherlands has universal health care, which means that, unlike in the United States, virtually everyone is covered, and of course social welfare, broadly understood, begins at the beginning. In Julie and Jan’s case, although he was a struggling translator and she was a struggling writer, their insurance covered prenatal care, the birth of their children and after-care, which began with seven days of five-hours-per-day home assistance. “That means someone comes and does your laundry, vacuums and teaches you how to care for a newborn,” Julie said. Then began the regimen of regular checkups for the baby at the public health clinic. After that the heavily subsidized day care kicked in, which, Julie told me, “is huge, in that it helps me live as a writer who doesn’t make a lot of money.”

Canada. One interesting aspect of life for our neighbors to the north: only about 4% of its workforce works “very long hours” compared to 11% here in the States. They also have that darn socialized medicine, but still end comfortably ahead of us.

Why has America dropped so much lower than it once was? As Laza Kekic, who is the director of country forecasting services at Economist Intelligence Unit, writes:

 America was helped to the top spot back in 1988 by the inclusion in the ranking of a “philistine factor” (for cultural poverty) and a “yawn index” (the degree to which a country might, despite all its virtues, be irredeemably boring). Switzerland scored terribly on both counts...
 
However, there is surely a lot to be said for boring stability in today’s (and no doubt tomorrow’s) uncertain times.

Sarah Seltzer is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at sarahmseltzer.com.

 
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