Australia Tops OECD Better Life Index (European Pressphoto Agency)
The Wall Street Journal May 22 - Australia is living up to its nickname of 'the lucky country,' with a new survey marking it as the happiest industrialized nation in the world based on criteria such as jobs, income and health.
Having sidestepped the economic malaise gripping much of Europe and with near full employment owing to a once-in-a-century resources boom, Australia has come out on top ahead of Norway and the U.S. in the annual Better Life Index compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The findings come despite fresh signs that not every Australian is enjoying the benefits of the resources boom, with tourist attractions seeing a drop in visitors and many manufacturers rethinking their Australian operations because the strong local currency has made exports uncompetitive. A rising cost of living also is weighing heavily on consumers, who are tightening their purse strings or using the Internet to hunt for bargains on items that can be purchased overseas.
But the promise of higher living standards is drawing migrants from across the world.
The OECD survey--which rates its 34 member countries on categories like housing, jobs, education, health, environment and work-life balance--shies away from explicitly giving any one nation an overall top ranking, but if each of the 11 categories is given equal weight, Australia's cumulative rank rises to No. 1, according to the OECD website. It is followed closely by Norway and the U.S.
Australia's high rank--based on data from the United Nations, individual governments and other sources--is largely due to its strong economic performance despite the economic turmoil in Europe and anemic growth in the U.S.
But there are weaknesses too. While the index found that Australians rank their satisfaction with life at 7.4 out of 10--higher than the OECD average of 6.7--they are noticeably less bullish in their day-to-day life, with 74% reporting positive daily experiences. That's less than Americans, Irish and even Spaniards facing job insecurity due to the country's hefty debt pile.
The reasoning for that is pinned on an Australian consumer that has become overly cautious, analysts say.
Despite a minority government that's sinking in the polls after a series of scandals involving key lawmakers and policy missteps, some 71% of Australians trust their political institutions, compared with an OECD average of 56%.
In addition, 85% of people in Australia described their health as good, well above the OECD average of 70%. The survey also found that Australian men spend nearly three hours every day cooking, cleaning or caring-one of the highest scores across the OECD's 34 member countries and ahead of men in the U.S., Germany and Canada.
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