Where Is the Best Place to Be Born in 2013?

Of course, it's the country whose people eat more chocolate, ride more trains and commit more suicides with guns than anyone else

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Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters

A cow stands on a mountain-pass road in the Swiss Alps

Of course, it’s the country with the most bunkers per capita, whose people eat more chocolate, ride more trains and commit more suicides with guns than anyone else: Switzerland.

Using a set of parameters ranging from the number of seats in parliament held by women, to life expectancy, divorce rates and average rainfall, the Economist Intelligence Unit released its yearly ranking of countries that offer the best opportunities for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for children born in the coming year.

Switzerland, a landlocked, multilingual country of 8 million at the heart of Europe but outside the E.U., leads the ranking, followed by Australia and Norway. Five of the top 10 countries are in Europe. Canada ranks ninth. The business hubs Singapore and Hong Kong are leading in Asia.

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The U.S. ties with Germany at 16, behind Ireland — a country that almost defaulted over its debt during the financial crisis — and Taiwan. A quarter of a century ago, the U.S. led the global ranking, and all other 10 leading nations were European with the exception of Japan, then ranked sixth. But 25 years of heavy debt and slow economic growth has pulled Japan, still the world’s third largest economy, down to 25th place, behind sleepy Cyprus and Chile.

The United Arab Emirates, home to the economic hub Dubai, is the first place in the Middle East to make the list, coming in at 18. Israel places 20th. (The Palestinian territories are not included in the survey, but considering an unemployment rate that’s three times higher and per capita income almost 30 times lower than its neighbor’s, it would arguably rank much lower.)

Latin America’s most auspicious place is its country with the highest life expectancy, Costa Rica, which comes in at 30, ahead of Brazil (37), Mexico (39) and Argentina (40). South Africa is the best place to be born in Africa, but that’s still not saying much: the country comes in at 53. China, the world’s second largest economy, ranks 49th. India, the world’s most populous democracy, ranks 66th.

Among the 80 countries surveyed, Nigeria ranked last. Riven by poverty, corruption and sectarian violence, “it is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013,” the study said.

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