Gap between rich and poor pulls UK down in UN human development stakes
Britain lags behind France and Germany in human development, according to a report compiled by the United Nations and has slipped down the league table to 26th place over the past five years.
The UN said high levels of inequality were leading to slower progress in the UK than in other western European countries, with only Portugal recording a lower score on the international organisation's human development index (HDI).
While the UK's HDI of 0.849 meant it was ranked as a country with "very high human development", the score was only good enough for 26th place in a list headed by Norway, Australia and New Zealand.
Germany was 10th, France 14th, while crisis-stricken Greece, Spain and Ireland all scored more highly than Britain.
The UN said human development in the UK was below the average for the 30-plus countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club for rich nations based in Paris.
The report looks at income, education and health to gauge progress and found that in the three decades from 1980 per capita incomes were up 86%, life expectancy rose by over six years to 79.8 years and the mean number of years of schooling increased by almost two years.
However, Finland and Belgium, which both had similar levels of human development to the UK in 1980, saw more rapid improvement.
For the first time this year, the UN introduced an equality-adjusted HDI in an attempt to measure the impact of differences in income, life expectancy and access to education across the population.
This found that the UK's 2010 HDI of 0.849 fell by 10% to 0.766 when inequality was taken into account, a bigger fall than in either Germany or France.
The Gini coefficient – a measure of income inequality – shows that the gap between rich and poor in the UK is one of the highest in the OECD