KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 — Singapore jumped to the sixth best place to be born in the world this year while Malaysia was 36th, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index of 80 nations that attempts to measure which country provides the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life.
Southeast Asia’s third biggest economy hopped up two rungs from the 38th spot it occupied 25 years ago, when the EIU —- a sister company to the influential Economist business and current affairs magazine — first ran its “Where-to-be-born” index in 1988, edging out other nations in the region except for Singapore.
A quarter century later, the Lion City has shot to 6th place, up from 36th out of 48 countries in 1988 when it tied with East Germany before the Berlin Wall crumbled.
Thailand ranked 50, the Philippines which placed 24th in 1988 dropped to 63, tying with Sri Lanka, while Vietnam and Indonesia took 68th and 71st positions respectively.
Malaysia drew 6.62 out of a 10-point scorecard in the study of life-satisfaction survey, which seeks to quantify how happy people say they are based on a list of 11 economic and socio-political indicators such as a country’s income per capita, cost of living, human rights, life expectancy and literacy and education levels.
However, the methodology used to crunch up the numbers for its statistics has also changed from when the index was introduced.
In 1988, the Economist graded a total of 48 countries for bonus points on cultural poverty, what it called the “philistine factor”; and the degree to which a country is deemed to be “irrevocably boring” in spite of its virtues and which it described as the “yawn factor”.
In an accompanying article linked to the “Lottery of life” feature published in its January 1 online edition, the Economist explained that the study calculated life-satisfaction based on a 2006 Gallup Poll of 130 countries.
The Economist explained that its index also calculates the EIU’s economic forecasts to 2030 — roughly when children born this year will reach adulthood.
In the 2013 index, Switzerland beat out all other nations, including the United States as the last world superpower, as the best place for babies to be born.
Australia ranked runner-up, followed by the Scandinavian countries Norway (3), Sweden (4) and Denmark (5) while New Zealand, the Netherlands, Canada and Hong Kong rounded up the rest of the top 10.
Nigeria limped in last as the worst place for a baby to be born this year.
Malaysia had emerged as the world’s 51st happiest nation out of 156 countries surveyed and second to Singapore in Southeast Asia, in the World Happiness Report released by the United Nations last April.
“Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in explaining well-being differences,” the UN report stated then.
“At the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial,” it added.