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Cool Norway best place to chill

Sailing is a popular form of recreation in Norway.
1. Norway 0.956
2. Sweden 0.946
3. Australia 0.946
4. Canada 0.943
5. Netherlands 0.942
6. Belgium 0.942
7. Iceland 0.941
8. United States 0.939
9. Japan 0.938
10. Ireland 0.936
- - - -
176. Niger 0.292
177. Sierra Leone 0.273
Source: United Nations July 2004
Lifestyle (House and Home)
United Nations

(CNN) -- It may get down to chilly sub-zero temperatures in mid-winter, but the cold climate country of Norway remains the best place in the world to live, according to the latest research by the United Nations.

And showing it can be cool to be cold, Sweden ranks second, with Canada not far behind in fourth spot.

Splitting the cool trio is Australia -- a much warmer country, and the only southern hemisphere nation to rank in the top 10. Japan, in 9th spot, is the only Asian nation in this elite group.

Norway has been in the top spot on the U.N.'s human development index (HDI) list since 1995 and has ranked in the top four since 1975. Canada topped the list in 1985 and 1990.

The United States ranks eighth, while the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland and Ireland fill out the top 10.

Switzerland, which headed the list in 1980, is in 11th spot. The UK, which carried the sobriquet "cool Britannia" early in the life of Prime Minister Tony Blair's administration, ranks 12th.

The 2004 HDI, released in Brussels Thursday, is a composite index that looks at indicators such as life expectancy, adult literacy rates, school enrolments and per capita income.

The lowest placed nations are the African states of Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone.

Norway scores very highly on education and GDP, but is beaten on life expectancy by Japan, Sweden and Iceland.

Norway can also be an expensive place to live. A survey late last year by the UBS bank found that once rent and housing is stripped out, the Norwegian capital of Oslo is the costliest city in the world for goods and services, ahead of the perennial front-runner Tokyo.

But compensation comes in the form of the very high salaries that prevail in Norway, where the GDP per capita is $36,600 in terms of purchasing power parity.

Of course, it depends what is included in the cost of living index. A similar survey by the Mercer consulting group earlier this month showed Tokyo a clear leader in expenses, followed by London, Moscow, Osaka and Hong Kong. Oslo ranked just 15th.

Mercer's own "quality of life" survey in March this year had the Swiss cities of Zurich and Geneva heading the list, followed by Vancouver and Vienna. Sweden's capital Stockholm ranked 15th, while Oslo was in 31st place.

The Mercer study was based on 39 key quality of life factors, including the political and social environment, the economy, health, education, public services, transport, recreation, housing, consumer goods and the natural environment.

Whatever the criteria used, the U.N. argues in its 2004 Human Development Report, released in Brussels Thursday, that cultural freedoms should be embraced as basic human rights and necessities for the development of increasingly diverse societies in the 21st century.

The U.N. report says that if the world is to eradicate poverty, it must first "successfully confront the challenge of how to build inclusive, culturally diverse societies.

It found that the U.S. city of Miami has the largest foreign-born population of any city in the world -- 59 percent -- followed by Toronto with 44 percent, Los Angeles with 41 percent, Vancouver 37 percent and New York 36 percent. In Asia, Singapore has 33 percent foreign-born and Sydney has 31 percent.

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