Shop Street, Galway City - the top destination for Americans

A few hundred thousand unemployed Irish people will find no disagreement with a recent Newsweek poll that found that the USA (11) is a better all-round place to live than Ireland (17).

Based on a series of criteria, including education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism, and political environment, the USA came out on top, which will be cold comfort to the various Irish people trying desperately to get visas to come and live and work in the US.

Finland topped the poll, with Switzerland second, and  Sweden, Australia and Luxembourg finishing out the top five. Ireland, though it finished six places behind the USA, still managed to be ranked as a better place to live than Austria (18), Spain (21), Israel (22) and Italy (23). By the same token, it was beaten by South Korea (15), the United Kingdom (14), New Zealand (13), and Denmark (10). Newsweek’s rating decided that the worst place to live, at least of the countries it rated, was Burkina Faso (100).

In terms of education, the Irish system is regarded as marginally better. According to Newsweek, Irish children spend on average two more years in school, although this doesn’t seem to have any effect on literacy levels, with both countries scoring 99 percent for adult literacy. (Based on figures taken from the CIA Worldbook.)

Under the health heading, Irish people live, on average, three years longer than Americans, while Americans have to suffer more homicides (6 per 100,000 in the US, compared to fewer than 1 per 100,000 in Ireland), live in a more polluted country (Ireland’s environmental health is 91.7 percent compared to America’s 88.3 percent), and consume more ($25.1k worth of stuff, compared to Americans consuming $33.9k). But Ireland’s unemployment levels are skyrocketing, with Newsweek putting them at 12 percent (they are almost certainly higher), while even in the middle of this recession, the US has held its unemployment rate at 9.3 percent. Both countries have a reasonable – if not perfect – level of gender equality, and relatively small levels of its population living on less than $2 a day. 

The countries share roughly equal political dynamism, which is to say that there is freedom of access to the political machinery for all citizens, that on a scale of 1 to 10, they both score 7 for political participation, and both achieve high scores in political stability.

Surprisingly, though, Ireland scores well on economic dynamism, comparing reasonably favourably with the US under headings like productive growth, services as a percentage of GDP, manufacturing as a percentage of GDP, innovation, and ease of doing business. Then again, this is the magazine that rated Brian Cowen as one of the world’s greatest leaders …