On our rankings, England and Romania are fairly close, especially in terms of the Happy Planet Index and Global Peace Index. England appears to be a considerably nicer place to be a woman, while the wealth gap is a fair bit smaller in Romania.
Or is it? England are at a considerable disadvantage in terms of income inequality, because our figure is showing inequality across the whole of the United Kingdom, rather than only in England. If all the Welsh (earning around two thirds of the income of the English) were taken out of the equation, then England’s score would probably improve somewhat. Still, in a way what the GINI figure is measuring is how well England treats its neighbouring nations.
England has an advantage over Romania in gender inequality partly because it’s simply a richer nation, with more to spend on healthcare or education. While this helps to explain the gap in his area, it isn’t precisely an excuse – many of the countries close to Romania in the Human Development Index perform much better in these areas than Romania. For example – women in Romania (ranked 50 in Human Development) are three times as likely to die in childbirth as women in Croatia (ranked 51).
Behind the similar Happy Planet Index scores there are two very different stories: UK citizens live a lot longer, and are happier with their lives than Romanians, but they also have a much larger ecological footprint. The question for Romania will be whether it is able to improve the living standards of its citizens without sacrificing the environment in the process.
Although it’s a close contest, and although England are ahead on our rankings, I’ll be backing Romania, who have the potential to be one of the fairest countries in the world in the not-too-distant futures.
Chris Nimmo is a student at Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand School of Music, and lead researcher for this project.