Ireland, that Shamrock Isle, well-known for its natural beauty and storied history, has received a new distinction: the world’s highest quality of life. The honor, bestowed by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2005 Quality-of-Life index, is part of the paper’s ongoing effort to measure happiness around the world. While other organizations have released similar surveys in the past (and this is weekly’s 17th iteration) their measurements are based on more subjective surveys about happiness rather. Likewise conceding that wealth – the standard measurement used to compare nations – is not the best indicator of a nation’s overall satisfaction, however, The Economist’s survey compares 111 countries by aggregating nine factors that range from traditional metrics like wealth and political freedom to relative intangibles like gender equality and community life.
Taken together, then, Ireland leads the pack with the survey’s highest score – 8.33 out of 10 – and strongly outperforms Switzerland (8.07) and Norway (8.05),the second and third place finishers. Perhaps more surprising still, Ireland’s neighbor and longtime rival, the United Kingdom, ranked 29th – solidly in the second tier of surveyed nations.
This result is clear indicator of Ireland’s rising position in the world. Long considered a European backwater, as recently as the 1990s the country was better known for its mass emigrations than its quality of life. Of late, however, membership in the European Union and the resulting loosening of trade restrictions has transformed the island nation. Where once thousands of its citizens left every year in search abroad, favorable exchange programs with other EU member state has seen a significant uptick in Ireland student visa applicants.
In fact, the survey reveals what many international students in Ireland already known. Attracted by its favorable climate, low cost of living, and friendly people, it has established itself as a major player in both English language and higher education.