People sitting in the shadow of the National Oslo Opera House, in Oslo, Norway. The country ranked 1st on the UN's Human Development Report for the 12th straight year. People sitting in the shadow of the National Oslo Opera House, in Oslo, Norway. The country ranked 1st on the UN's Human Development Report for the 12th straight year. People sitting in the shadow of the National Oslo Opera House, in Oslo, Norway. The country ranked 1st on the UN's Human Development Report for the 12th straight year. (Photo: Tumar / Shutterstock.com)

What countries are the most developed in the world?

The United Nations has released the 2015 list – and there are a few surprises.

The United Nations released its 2015 Human Development Report earlier this week at a ceremony in Ethiopia, and it came with a few surprises and an upbeat look toward the future.

Human Development levels are based on the UN's Human Development Index (HDI), a summary measure of average achievement in three key dimensions of human development: lifespan, quality of education and standard of living.

Norway was deemed to have the highest HDI, placing first on the list for the 12th straight year. Australia was in second place, followed by Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands. The United States placed eighth. Other countries in the top 20 included the United Kingdom and Sweden (tied for 14th) and Israel, which placed 18th, making it the highest ranked Mediterranean country on the list. Other notables were Japan at 20th, France at 22nd, Spain at 26th and Italy at 27.


Among the most interesting conclusions from the report was that major progress has been made over the past 25 years, with 2 billion people being lifted out of low human development levels.

Between 1990 and 2014, the number of people living in countries with very high values of human development index more than doubled from 0.5 billion to 1.2 billion people, as 34 countries moved up to this category. Likewise, the number of people living in countries with low levels of human development fell by more than 60 percent from 3.2 billion to 1.2 billion, as 19 countries moved up and out of the low human development category.

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