A fixture of the ranking for most of the past decade, Switzerland is back in the top 10 of the most peaceful nations after two years on the sidelines. While it is indeed a place with an exceptionally high degree of safety and security in society and a low level of domestic or international conflict, its surprisingly elevated level of militarization (the total army personnel is approximately 240,000 out of a population of a little more than 8 million) keeps this nation from scoring nearer the very top. Switzerland —together with other well-ranked countries such as Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands— has also featured amongst the ten world's highest weapons exporters per capita in the last five years. However, by most other measures, Switzerland remains a stable and prosper country where linguistic and religious diversity is embraced. In third place in the United Nation’s Happiness Report, it also ranks above the average among OECD nations when it comes subjective well-being, income, health and education and environmental quality. Not everything, in all fairness, runs like clockwork: Swiss women have recently took to streets to protest against domestic violence and the wage gap. Switzerland, in fact, lags behind a number of other developed countries in workplace equality, with women earning approximately one-fifth less than men, worse than in 2000.
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Up two spots from last year, over the last decade the Czech Republic has shown a sustained improvement in a great number of areas ranging from political stability to personal security and international relations.
According to the OECD, it also performs well in many measures of wellbeing, ranking above average in jobs and earnings, work-life balance and education and skills. Not only have 94% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education—well above the average rate of 78% and the highest among the 34 industrialized member countries—but this small nation of 10.6 million can boast the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union at 2%, below what economists consider a "natural" level.
Canada is the sixth safest out of 163 nations, a title it held also over the past two years (spoiler: the top 7 countries in the ranking maintained the position they had last year). Getting good marks when it comes to factors related to internal conflicts, levels of crime and political stability, the world's second-largest country by landmass—while relatively small in terms of population with just 37 million residents—punches above its weight in economic terms. As a top-trading nation, it is also one of the richest. Add to the mix excellent job opportunities, good health facilities and effective governance and you will have one of the best countries to live in.
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Denmark held the number two spot for five years in a row from 2011 to 2016, dropping subsequently to number five in 2017, where it remained ever since. A safe country to travel and live in, it is characterized by low levels of crime, a high degree of political stability, freedom of the press and respect for human rights. It also boasts a high level of income equality and is frequently ranked as one of the happiest nations in the world. The recent drop in the peace ranking is due to a deterioration in some of its militarization indicators. In 2017, to counter the threat Russia's increasing military activity in eastern and northern Europe, Denmark reached a landmark cross-party political deal to increase its defense budget by 20%, on course to match its Nordic neighbors Sweden’s and Norway's expenditure levels.
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