Canada near top of UN human development rankings but dragged down by inequalities

United Nations headquarters is seen in this file photo, in New York. We're No. 6! Or is it 12th? Maybe 13th.

The United Nations annual human development index has come out and Canada retained its hold on sixth place among 187 countries, the Globe and Mail reported.

But when inequities in health, education and income within the country are factored in, Canada apparently drops to 13th place, according to the Globe. A Reuters report puts Canada in 12th place, which is still out of the top 10.

The overall index, which looks at things like education, life expectancy and per capita income, puts Norway at the top of the list, followed by Australia, the Netherlands, the United States and New Zealand. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is last.

The U.S. ranking also drops, to 23rd when internal inequities are considered, according to Reuters.

The adjusted number is a relatively new addition to the index. When it's calculated, not only Canada but several countries slide down the rankings, including South Korea, the U.S. and Israel. By contrast, Sweden, Denmark and Slovenia climb up the list.

The annual report found income distribution worsened in most of the world. Latin America as a region has the most disparity but the report notes the gap is closing in countries such Brazil and Chile.

Canada also suffers when gender equality is taken into account, ranking 20th.

The report echoes the message of the Occupy movement, the Vancouver Sun reported.

"For a country that prides itself as a land of equal opportunity, that's a bit hard to take," Craig McInness wrote. "In the past couple of years we've come to think of ourselves as the country that gets things right, whether it's health care or banking.

"For most of the 1990s, we held bragging rights to the top spot in the annual rankings based on access to education, long and healthy lives and livable incomes."

While acknowledging that adjusted indices push down Canada's rankings, McInnes said the country is still performing well compared with most others.

"The wealthiest fifth of Americans made 8.5 times the income of the poorest fifth. That compares to a ratio of 5.5 times in Canada and just 3.9 times in top-ranked Norway. Norway also has some of the highest taxes in the developed world, which is not a path to equality most Canadians would likely support at this point."

McInnes points out that Canadian aboriginals are shamefully lagging other citizens in areas such as life expectancy, income, education and incarceration. The index shows Canada "remains one of the best places in the world to live but not for everyone just yet."

(AFP Photo)