Life Expectancy, Jobs and Education: Central Europe, Nordic, Eastern Gulf Countries and East Asia Lead

When it comes to statistics pertaining to quality of life, there are three parameters that may provide clues on this concept. These are life expectancy, employment and provision of primary education. These three concepts are interrelated but not automatically correlational, given that there are several factors that may influence them. However, the question remains whether which contributes more to increased life expectancy. Is it employment or primary education?

With available statistical data from UN, UNESCO and ILO, I was able to compute using Pearson correlation the relationship between these variables. The data shows that employment and life expectancy in general is not statistically related. This means that there are countries with residents having longer lives, but many of its citizens also do not have a job, regardless of salary, position and academic work prerequisites. On the other hand, access to primary education is significantly associated with life expectancy. Although the data is only limited to primary education, the findings show that when a person is able to finish primary education, there is increased chance that the person may live longer. This provides a hint for policy makers to put more focus on education, as a tool to increase the quality of life of people, as facilitating employment may augment income, but will not necessarily contribute to increase life expectancy.

In this research, life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life. This data is according to United Nations. The table below enumerates the countries with the highest life expectancy as of 2013. 

Countries with highest life expectancy
1.       Hong Kong SAR, China
83.48
2.       Japan
83.10
3.       Italy
82.94
4.       Iceland
82.92
5.       Switzerland
82.70
6.       France
82.57
7.       Spain
82.38
8.       Sweden
81.70
Israel
81.70
9.       Norway
81.45
10.   Luxembourg
81.39
11.   Korea, Rep.
81.37
12.   Canada
81.24
13.   Netherlands
81.10
14.   Austria
80.94
15.   Ireland
80.90
16.   Germany
80.89
17.   Malta
80.75
18.   Greece
80.63
Finland
80.63
19.   Belgium
80.39
20.   Macao SAR, China
80.13

Interestingly; out of top 40 countries in terms of life expectancy; Japan, Norway, Korea (Republic), Macao, Qatar and Brunei also have the highest primary education completion and employment rates. The map below shows, which countries are doing well in three areas together with the mentioned countries. Most of these countries are found in Europe and using Germanic-rooted languages, such as Norway, Denmark, Finland, Swede, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Czech Republic. Noticeably, smaller oil-exporting states, such Brunei, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE are part of this list. Expectedly, Asian economic tigers like South Korea, Macau, Hongkong and Japan scored best also in these parameters. On the other hand, Israel is the only non-Muslim non-oil producing Middle-eastern country, which is part of the top list. Furthermore, Cuba, Panama, Sri Lanka and Ecuador may not have the highest GDP but these countries are doing well also in these three parameters.


Furthermore, the twenty countries with the lowest life expectancy are listed below. Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritania, Yemen (Republic) and Gabon have ranked lowest in primary education and employment. Only South Africa, which is considered one of the largest African economy got low rankings in life expectancy. This is probably due to cultural diversity in the area. In addition, war-torn areas like Zaire and Central African Republic are part of the list.

Countries with lowest life expectancy
1.       Sierra Leone
45.33
2.       Botswana
46.99
3.       Lesotho
48.84
4.       Swaziland
48.85
5.       Central African Republic
49.48
6.       Congo, Dem. Rep.
49.62
7.       Mozambique
49.84
8.       Cote d'Ivoire
50.40
9.       Chad
50.70
10.   Angola
51.46
11.   Nigeria
52.11
12.   Equatorial Guinea
52.61
13.   Burundi
53.63
14.   Guinea-Bissau
54.03
15.   Cameroon
54.59
16.   Mali
54.60
17.   Malawi
54.72
18.   Guinea
55.84
19.   Burkina Faso
55.86
20.   South Africa
56.10

The map below shows that more than two-thirds of the African continent scored low in all three parameters. There is no complete data for countries Djibouti, Western Sahara, Sudan, Libya, South Sudan and Somalia so the map is considered limited. The aforementioned countries have either underwent economic or political unrest in the last years, that have certainly affected education, employment and life expectancy. Furthermore, Iraq, Yemen and Papua New Guinea are the only countries belonging to the lowest ranked countries found outside Africa.


The second indicator used in this research is employment rate. Employment refers to the share of the labor force that is with work. This excludes those who are unemployed but available for and seeking employment. This data is derived from information of ILO ( International Labor Organization). The definition provided encompasses underemployment, which refers to employment with unmatched skills and benefits. 

It is important to note that employment is influenced by a number of factors, such that high employment rates does not also contribute to longer life expectancy or is associated with higher access to primary education. Ghana and Sierra Leone in fact have high employment rates but low life expectancy. However, improvement in life expectancy is expected on these counties in the near future. In addition, high employment but low primary completion rate is found in East Timor, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Guatemala. These countries may have high number of unskilled workers, but are earning for a living for themselves. The countries with the highest employment rates are found below:

Countries with highest employment rates
1.       Cambodia
99.70
2.       Qatar
99.50
3.       Rwanda
99.40
4.       Thailand
99.30
5.       Benin
99.00
6.       Lao PDR
98.60
7.       Guinea
98.20
Macao SAR, China
98.20
8.       Vietnam
98.00
9.       Papua New Guinea
97.90
Bhutan
97.90
10.   Bolivia
97.40
11.   Nepal
97.30
12.   Guatemala
97.20
13.   Burkina Faso
96.90
Kuwait
96.90
Korea, Rep.
96.90
14.   Sierra Leone
96.80
Malaysia
96.80
Cuba
96.80
15.   Hong Kong SAR, China
96.70
16.   Myanmar
96.60
17.   Tanzania
96.50
Norway
96.50
18.   Madagascar
96.40
19.   India
96.40
20.   Liberia
96.30

Surprisingly, smaller states with lower GDP per capita like Cambodia, Rwanda, Benin,Laos, Guinea, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Liberia have high employment rates. There are two possible reasons for this. Firstly, the small population provides an advantage for their respective governments to facilitate employment among its people. Secondly, the definition of employment includes all forms of employment, regardless of where jobs are generated, whether in industries, agriculture or manufacturing. 

In the contrary, European countries such as Croatia, Albania and Ireland have low employment rates but high in life expectancy. This is primarily due to specific sociocultural and economic situation in the countries. The twenty countries with lowest employment rates are listed below. Interestingly, European countries of Macedonia, Greece, Spain, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Albania, Armenia, and Cyprus are part of the list. Most of these European countries have either experienced being helped by the European Union (Greece and Spain), or are excluded from EU (Balkan countries).

Countries with lowest employment rates
1.       Mauritania
69.00
2.       Macedonia, FYR
71.00
3.       Greece
72.70
4.       Spain
73.40
5.       South Africa
75.10
6.       Lesotho
75.30
7.       West Bank and Gaza
76.60
8.       Swaziland
77.50
9.       Serbia
77.80
10.   Montenegro
80.20
11.   Gabon
80.40
12.   Botswana
81.60
13.   Croatia
82.30
14.   Yemen, Rep.
82.60
15.   Namibia
83.10
16.   Armenia
83.80
17.   Albania
84.00
18.   Iraq
84.00
19.   Cyprus
84.20
20.   Jamaica
85.00

The third and last parameter included in this research is primary education completion rate. Primary completion rate is measured as the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education. It is calculated by taking the total number of students in the last grade of primary school, minus the number of repeaters in that grade, divided by the total number of children of official graduation age. The data is taken from the research conducted by UNESCO. Just like the other parameters, primary education completion rate is affected by various factors.

There are countries with good primary completion rate but low in employment. These include Barbados, Cyprus, Iran, Egypt, Lithuania, Greece, Jordan, Spain, Italy, Bahamas, Syria, Belize and Maldives. This data provides a glimpse on how difficult competition for employment can be in these countries. Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Italy are all EU countries with this kind of problem, which has spilled over the other EU member states. The list of countries with the highest primary completion rates are found below.

Countries with highest primary education completion rate
1.       Maldives
155.97
2.       Brunei Darussalam
111.18
3.       Kuwait
109.74
4.       Belize
106.02
5.       Mongolia
105.26
6.       Colombia
104.84
7.       Syrian Arab Republic
103.71
8.       Belarus
103.68
9.       Fiji
103.51
10.   Israel
103.36
11.   Argentina
102.55
12.   Qatar
102.19
13.   Kazakhstan
101.97
14.   Bahamas, The
101.86
15.   Ecuador
101.85
16.   Italy
101.71
17.   Korea, Rep.
101.50
18.   Japan
101.42
19.   Spain
101.29
20.   Jordan
101.15

Moreover, not all countries with low primary completion rate have lower life expectancy and employment rates. Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Benin, Uganda, Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Liberia, Bangladesh, East Timor and Tanzania have good employment rates, but low in primary completion rate and life expectancy. There are several reasons why these countries have managed to keep employment levels high. This might be attributed to the kind of work available in these countries. Futhermore, the list of countries with lowest primary education completion rate are listed below.

Countries with lowest primary education completion rate
1.       Chad
30.22
2.       Niger
33.08
3.       Ethiopia
35.07
4.       Central African Republic
35.25
5.       Burkina Faso
35.50
6.       Eritrea
37.72
7.       Burundi
38.66
8.       Rwanda
41.33
9.       Mozambique
41.44
10.   Guinea-Bissau
46.34
11.   Angola
48.16
12.   Equatorial Guinea
48.43
13.   Guinea
49.31
14.   Mali
49.65
15.   Senegal
51.45
16.   Cote d'Ivoire
51.99
17.   Mauritania
52.15
18.   Benin
54.02
19.   Madagascar
55.38
20.   Uganda
56.89

Mediocre list

In this research, the list of countries is also provided with so-called mediocre performance in terms of life expectancy, employment and primary education completion rate. Some of these countries maybe ranked one of the highest in at most one parameter but are considered average in terms of the other two. Interestingly, rich countries like Canada, United States and France are part of the mediocre list. The average performance of these countries maybe brought about by the number of distinct cultures found in the country, which is linked to immigration and other factors. In addition, Russia and former Soviet Union states ( Estonia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Moldova, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) were also considered average. Developing countries in South Asia (India and Nepal) and most of the Southeast Asian nation (except Malaysia and Singapore) have also showed an average performance on the three parameters. Muslim-dominated Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Morocco, as well as the most Spanish-speaking South American countries (except Ecuador), and inclusion of Honduras and Costa Rica, are are also part of the list.


Data used

For reference, the data used are as follows. Green fields indicate part of the top 40 highest, while red indicate the opposite.
Country
Life Expectancy
Primary Completion Rate
Employment Rate
1.         Albania
77.35
95.82
84.00
2.         Algeria
70.88
89.41
90.20
3.         Angola
51.46
48.16
93.20
4.         Argentina
76.01
102.55
92.50
5.         Armenia
74.44
95.17
83.80
6.         Austria
80.94
99.02
95.10
7.         Azerbaijan
70.62
93.12
94.50
8.         Bahamas, The
74.91
101.86
86.40
9.         Bangladesh
70.29
65.25
95.70
10.     Barbados
75.13
99.17
87.80
11.     Belarus
72.06
103.68
94.20
12.     Belgium
80.39
88.44
91.60
13.     Belize
73.70
106.02
85.40
14.     Benin
59.12
54.02
99.00
15.     Bhutan
67.89
75.82
97.90
16.     Bolivia
66.93
95.88
97.40
17.     Botswana
46.99
93.02
81.60
18.     Brunei Darussalam
78.37
111.18
96.20
19.     Bulgaria
74.31
98.68
87.10
20.     Burkina Faso
55.86
35.50
96.90
21.     Burundi
53.63
38.66
93.10
22.     Cabo Verde
74.54
98.16
93.00
23.     Cambodia
71.41
81.68
99.70
24.     Cameroon
54.59
60.07
96.00
25.     Canada
81.24
96.95
92.90
26.     Central African Republic
49.48
35.25
92.40
27.     Chad
50.70
30.22
93.00
28.     Chile
79.57
96.90
94.00
29.     Colombia
73.78
104.84
89.50
30.     Comoros
60.64
70.77
93.50
31.     Congo, Dem. Rep.
49.62
60.52
92.00
32.     Congo, Rep.
58.30
70.11
93.50
33.     Costa Rica
79.71
93.34
92.40
34.     Cote d'Ivoire
50.40
51.99
96.00
35.     Croatia
76.92
95.60
82.30
36.     Cuba
79.07
94.57
96.80
37.     Cyprus
79.64
99.28
84.20
38.     Czech Republic
78.08
100.65
93.10
39.     Denmark
80.05
100.71
93.00
40.     Dominican Republic
73.23
87.64
85.10
41.     Ecuador
76.19
101.85
95.80
42.     Egypt, Arab Rep.
70.91
99.83
87.30
43.     El Salvador
72.10
88.70
93.70
44.     Equatorial Guinea
52.61
48.43
92.00
45.     Eritrea
62.23
37.72
92.80
46.     Estonia
76.43
99.67
91.20
47.     Ethiopia
62.97
35.07
94.30
48.     Fiji
69.74
103.51
91.90
49.     Finland
80.63
99.09
91.80
50.     France
82.57
97.33
89.60
51.     Gabon
63.07
73.40
80.40
52.     Gambia, The
58.61
74.04
93.00
53.     Georgia
73.94
98.65
85.70
54.     Germany
80.89
99.77
94.70
55.     Ghana
60.95
77.62
95.40
56.     Greece
80.63
101.07
72.70
57.     Guatemala
71.66
74.39
97.20
58.     Guinea
55.84
49.31
98.20
59.     Guinea-Bissau
54.03
46.34
92.90
60.     Guyana
66.05
94.09
88.90
61.     Honduras
73.49
91.62
95.80
62.     Hong Kong SAR, China
83.48
96.18
96.70
63.     Hungary
75.06
97.18
89.80
64.     Iceland
82.92
100.38
94.40
65.     India
66.21
85.70
96.40
66.     Indonesia
70.61
98.44
93.70
67.     Iran, Islamic Rep.
73.76
99.77
86.80
68.     Iraq
69.24
66.98
84.00
69.     Ireland
80.90
95.15
86.90
70.     Israel
81.70
103.36
93.70
71.     Italy
82.94
101.71
87.80
72.     Jamaica
73.28
86.43
85.00
73.     Japan
83.10
101.42
96.00
74.     Jordan
73.75
101.15
87.40
75.     Kazakhstan
69.61
101.97
94.80
76.     Kenya
61.08
89.72
90.80
77.     Korea, Rep.
81.37
101.50
96.90
78.     Kuwait
74.36
109.74
96.90
79.     Kyrgyz Republic
70.00
95.67
92.00
80.     Lao PDR
67.81
74.58
98.60
81.     Latvia
73.78
95.99
88.90
82.     Lebanon
79.85
91.72
93.50
83.     Lesotho
48.84
70.34
75.30
84.     Liberia
60.21
62.27
96.30
85.     Lithuania
73.86
100.88
88.20
86.     Luxembourg
81.39
84.18
94.10
87.     Macao SAR, China
80.13
100.81
98.20
88.     Macedonia, FYR
75.03
90.79
71.00
89.     Madagascar
64.25
55.38
96.40
90.     Malawi
54.72
64.29
92.40
91.     Malaysia
74.84
95.51
96.80
92.     Maldives
77.57
155.97
88.40
93.     Mali
54.60
49.65
91.80
94.     Malta
80.75
93.44
93.50
95.     Mauritania
61.35
52.15
69.00
96.     Mauritius
73.57
100.74
91.70
97.     Mexico
77.14
95.39
95.10
98.     Moldova
68.69
94.70
94.90
99.     Mongolia
67.34
105.26
95.10
100.  Montenegro
74.65
88.05
80.20
101.  Morocco
70.64
76.26
90.80
102.  Mozambique
49.84
41.44
91.70
103.  Myanmar
64.93
84.38
96.60
104.  Namibia
63.88
86.61
83.10
105.  Nepal
67.98
79.42
97.30
106.  Netherlands
81.10
99.52
93.30
107.  Nicaragua
74.47
72.80
92.80
108.  Niger
57.97
33.08
94.90
109.  Nigeria
52.11
78.83
92.50
110.  Norway
81.45
100.13
96.50
111.  Oman
76.59
91.82
92.10
112.  Pakistan
66.44
63.81
94.90
113.  Panama
77.37
93.28
95.90
114.  Papua New Guinea
62.30
60.74
97.90
115.  Paraguay
72.19
92.90
94.80
116.  Peru
74.52
98.56
96.10
117.  Philippines
68.55
93.79
92.90
118.  Poland
76.80
96.30
89.60
119.  Qatar
78.45
102.19
99.50
120.  Romania
74.56
95.16
92.70
121.  Russian Federation
70.46
94.04
94.40
122.  Rwanda
63.49
41.33
99.40
123.  Saudi Arabia
75.50
96.36
94.30
124.  Senegal
63.20
51.45
89.70
125.  Serbia
75.23
98.38
77.80
126.  Sierra Leone
45.33
74.49
96.80
127.  Slovak Republic
76.11
97.56
85.80
128.  Slovenia
80.12
96.50
89.80
129.  Solomon Islands
67.51
85.47
96.20
130.  South Africa
56.10
92.72
75.10
131.  Spain
82.38
101.29
73.40
132.  Sri Lanka
74.07
99.65
95.80
133.  Suriname
70.81
85.43
92.20
134.  Swaziland
48.85
66.71
77.50
135.  Sweden
81.70
99.54
91.90
136.  Switzerland
82.70
96.30
95.60
137.  Syrian Arab Republic
74.71
103.71
89.20
138.  Tajikistan
67.26
97.04
89.30
139.  Tanzania
60.85
70.52
96.50
140.  Thailand
74.19
85.64
99.30
141.  Timor-Leste
67.02
69.04
95.60
142.  Togo
56.15
71.43
93.10
143.  Trinidad and Tobago
69.82
92.88
94.20
144.  Tunisia
75.10
95.57
86.70
145.  Turkey
74.86
100.09
90.00
146.  Uganda
58.65
56.89
96.20
147.  Ukraine
70.94
100.49
92.10
148.  United Arab Emirates
76.96
96.61
96.20
149.  United States
78.74
98.46
92.60
150.  Uruguay
76.91
98.89
93.40
151.  Uzbekistan
68.10
96.42
89.30
152.  Venezuela, RB
74.49
92.11
92.50
153.  Vietnam
75.61
98.99
98.00
154.  West Bank and Gaza
73.02
92.18
76.60
155.  Yemen, Rep.
62.91
62.31
82.60
156.  Zambia
57.02
84.56
86.70

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