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Discovering the European Countries with the Best Quality of Life

Kate Sukhanova Senior Statistics Contributor Author expertise
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European Countries with the Best Quality of Life

Are you looking for the European countries with the best quality of life but haven’t settled on which country is the best option?

That’s no surprise. The best option might mean very different things to different people. For instance, some people might prioritize having sunny weather all year round – not the easiest option in Europe – whereas others might prefer access to mountain air. Plus, each person has a different view of what an ideal standard of living might be.

However, there is a metric for this – the Human Development Index (HDI), which indicates the relative quality of life in each country. We’ve taken a look at the HDI of 20 European countries with the best quality of life and put together a short description of what it means for each one. Let’s dive in.

European Countries with the Best Quality of Life

TOP-EUROPEAN-COUNTRIES-BY-QUALITY-OF-LIFE-INDEX.

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Below is a list of European countries with the best quality of life, laying out the standards of living and what life is like in each nation.

20-16

Our first five entries include some of the most notable countries in Western Europe, hugging the western coasts of the Mediterranean.

20. Italy

Italy Life statistics

HDI Index: 0.895

Safety Index: 8.0

Our list opens with the country of pasta, Renaissance art, and Tiramisu. Italy’s HDI 2021 index is 0.895, and its OECD safety rating is 8. Given its rich culture and cuisine, coupled with its relatively mild climate, its high quality of life rating is no surprise.

However, as we noted, everyone’s taste is unique. Italy isn’t the most LGBT-friendly country in Europe, and its unemployment rates are quite high – 8.09% in 2022. Moreover, it was one of the hardest-hit countries during the COVID–19 pandemic. 

Nonetheless, the Italian peninsula offers a very good level of quality of life. If you’re earning a monthly wage above 2022’s national average of $2,877, you can have a very good life there.

19. Cyprus

cyprus unemployment

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.896

The island nation of Cyprus is best known as a vacation destination and a jurisdictional paradise. However, it also has a high HDI index of 0.896 and is one of the safest countries in the world, making it an attractive destination for expats.

The country’s mild climate and lower cost of living than other countries add to the quality of life. The average wage in 2023 is $2,387 per month, and the country’s unemployment rate has been steadily dropping since 2020. 

18. France

france life expectancy

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.903

Safety Index: 8.1

France is one of the largest European economies and has a great work-life balance and an average wage of $3,523 (2021). It comes in at 18th on our list. It’s also the first country on the list with an HDI index over 0.9, at 0.903, to be precise.

The country’s safety index is also quite high, at 8.1. Its unemployment rate is 7.2%, however, which is comparable to Cyprus. In recent years, France has also seen political unrest and tension – as well as a bedbug crisis.

17. Spain

Unemployment rate in European Union

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.905

Safety Index: 9.3

Despite the severe impact of several financial crises on the country, Spain retains high levels of quality of life, with an HDI index of 0.905. With a very high safety index of 9.3, a booming tourism sector, beautiful landscapes, and a great climate, the country is loved by many and is a popular place to visit.

However, Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the EU, and many people leave the country to find work elsewhere, making it a less appealing destination for expats than other places on the list.

The country’s quality of life might not be ideal for you if you’re not a digital nomad and don’t have a job offer in hand from a Spanish company, though.

16. Austria

Austria quality of life

HDI Index: 0.916

Safety Index: 9.3

The Central European land of opera and Sacher-Torte has an HDI of 0.916. Austria’s high life expectancy, low unemployment rate, and high safety ratings are a testament to its quality of life. 

An expat moving to Austria would have easy access to the rest of Europe, thanks to Austria’s central placement. If you’re making a wage above the average of $2,674 and are happy with relatively chilly winters and a higher-than-average cost of living, you could make a very good life in Austria.

15-11

These next five entries span the European continent and include some of the smallest countries in the region – but the HDI is only going up.

15. Malta

malta unemployment

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.918

This tiny European island nation is, in fact, one of the world’s most urbanized countries. Malta was one of the few European countries that emerged from the 2008/2009 financial crisis relatively unscathed. It’s a growing economy with a low unemployment rate and an HDI index of 0.918.

The mild climate and well-developed urban infrastructure are important draws for expats looking to move to Malta. However, female expats should bear in mind the Catholic country’s strict anti-abortion laws.

14. Slovenia

slovenia unemployment

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.918

Safety Index: 9.7

The only former Yugoslav nation on our list is Slovenia, taking the 14th spot with an HDI of 0.918, putting it on par with Malta. With its beautiful landscapes and rich culture, Slovenia is attractive to expats looking for a good work-life balance and safety – its safety index is one of the highest on our list.

However, if you’re used to the hustle and bustle of a big city, moving to Slovenia could be a shock to the senses, as the pace of life is much more tranquil than in the UK and the US. Moreover, finding employment in this small country can be tricky.

Nonetheless, if you do manage to get a good job that pays above the average wage of $2,336 per month, you could build yourself a very good life in Ljubljana – it’s just likely to be a fairly quiet life.

13. UK

London police knife offences statistics

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.929

Safety Index: 8.6

The United Kingdom is in the 13th spot on our list, with an HDI of 0.929. Many expats, especially in the tech industry, are attracted to London life, the great quality of food, and the strong support of the tech sector by the British government.

However, the country’s quality of life has been challenged significantly in recent years by Brexit, a poor response to COVID-19, and a cost-of-living crisis.

Moreover, its safety score is lower than many other countries on our list and even those with a higher HDI score. A big reason for this is the incidence of knife crime in London in recent years.

12. Luxembourg

Luxembourg population

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.93

Safety Index: 9.4

The tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is at the heart of continental Europe and has an HDI score of 0.93. Despite its small size, however, it’s a very important location as many EU institutions are based in the country. Moreover, it’s home to Amazon‘s European base.

Luxembourg might seem very appealing to expats. Indeed, over 40% of the population are foreign nationals, and its economy is very stable. However, its small size means it’s very dependent on imports of food, and it could be challenging for a newcomer to find accommodation, even if they manage to secure a job.

That notwithstanding, the country offers some of the highest salaries in the world – so if you do get a position in Luxembourg that pays the average wage of $6,700 per month or more, you could build a great life there.

11. Liechtenstein

liechtenstein

HDI Index: 0.935

The Principality of Liechtenstein is another small country that offers a high quality of life, earning it an HDI of 0.935. It’s a popular winter sports destination, and tourists are drawn to its Alpine views and proximity to other European countries.

However, it’s not a common expat destination. The country’s small size and restrictive quota-based immigration policies make it very tricky for expats to relocate there. But if you luck out, you could make an average wage of over $6,000 – although your costs of living will also be high.

10-6

2022-UNEMPLOYMENT-RATE-OF-TOP-10-EUROPEAN-COUNTRIES-BY-QUALITY-OF-LIFE

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Now we move deeper into the Benelux region and see our first Scandinavian entry on the list – among a range of ideal countries to settle down in.

10. Belgium

Belgium inflation

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.937

Safety Index: 6.4

The land of lace and chocolate takes the tenth spot on our list. Belgium has three official languages and an HDI score of 0.937. Its capital, Brussels, is one of the most important cities in the EU, as it’s home to the EU Council and the European Commission meetings.

Despite Belgium’s strong economy, however, it experienced high levels of inflation in 2022. It’s also a popular destination for expats who don’t limit themselves to Brussels – the country’s great infrastructure and quality of life make other cities like Antwerp and Ghent popular places to settle down.

9. Finland

Finland quality of life

HDI Index: 0.94

Safety Index: 9.3

Finland might be the lowest-rated Scandinavian country on our list, but it offers a very high quality of life. Not only does it have an HDI index score of 0.94, but it has continuously been voted one of the happiest countries in the world. And that’s despite its cold climate and security concerns relating to Russia.

The “infrastructure of happinessdeveloped in Finland is a big reason for this quality of life. Strong healthcare and education systems, a robust economy, and social trust, together with high safety levels, are just a few of the reasons for the country’s high quality of life and expats’ interest.

8. The Netherlands

Netherlands GDP distribution

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.941

Safety Index: 8.9

The country of canals, tulips, and Van Gogh is number eight on our list.

A significant portion of The Netherlands may be located below sea level, but thanks to its well-developed infrastructure and urbanization, the population has been circumventing that problem and enjoying a high quality of life, earning the country an HDI score of 0.941

The Netherlands is also one of the safest countries on our list and offers an excellent work-life balance. Its economy is primarily service-based, with many large tech service companies, such as Booking.com, having their headquarters in the country.

The Netherlands offers a lot of opportunities for expats, who can build a good life here, provided they’re prepared to pay higher taxes than those in other countries.

7. Germany

German urbanization

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.942

Safety Index: 8.3

The biggest economy in the EU is in the seventh spot on our list with an HDI of 0.942. Germany’s significant GDP, its robust welfare system and infrastructure, and the relative ease of obtaining a residence permit are only a few reasons why the country is so attractive to expats.

Most of the population in Germany lives in urban areas – no surprise, as most jobs are in large cities like Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Berlin. If you’re looking to work or study in Germany, any of those cities would be a great choice.

6. Ireland

Ireland quality of life

HDI Index: 0.945

Safety Index: 8.3

The rich culture of the Emerald Isle, coupled with Ireland’s low taxes and growing economy, are just a few of the things that make it so attractive to expats across the world – whether they’re searching for their Irish roots or have bagged a great job at Meta.

The increases in the standard of living that have been seen in the last couple of decades have earned Ireland an HDI score of 0.945.

However, the country’s climate can be very difficult to get used to. In addition, if you’re not a big drinker, you’ll be in for a culture shock, as alcohol is an intrinsic part of the Irish culture.

5-1

TOP-5-European-COUNTRIES-WITH-HIGHEST-QUALITY-OF-LIFE-BY-HDI

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Our final five entries are dominated by Scandinavian countries – but there’s an outlier in the number one spot, with Central Europe’s most famously private nation.

5. Sweden

Sweden life expectancy

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.947

Safety Index: 8.6

In the fifth spot, we have Sweden, with an HDI of 0.947. The country is the largest in Scandinavia and offers its residents and newcomers a developed economy, low inflation, and high levels of sustainability.

It’s one of the best countries in terms of the integration of immigrants, with almost a third of its population having been born abroad.

If you’re thinking of moving to Sweden, you’ll certainly meet many other expats, softening any culture shock you might experience. Bear in mind, though, that the cold Swedish climate can be hard to get used to. It’s also an expensive country.

4. Denmark

happiest countries

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.948

Safety Index: 9.2

Denmark is another country that’s often ranked as one of the happiest in the world. It has a stable economy with a consistently high employment rate, an excellent work-life balance, and high levels of safety. It’s no surprise then that 9 out of 10 expats love their lives in the country.

If you come from a warmer and more open country, though, you might find it hard to settle in Denmark, given its Nordic climate and reserved locals, as well as the challenging Danish language. However, Denmark offers some of the highest salaries in the world, on par with Luxembourg, which is a great incentive.

3. Iceland

Iceland quality of life

HDI Index: 0.959

Safety Index: 9.3

The picturesque island nation of Iceland is third on our list, with an HDI rating of 0.959. Expats are few and far between, given how remote it is, but despite the long winters and harsh climate, Iceland is one of the world’s happiest nations.

That’s largely due to the excellent healthcare system, close connections, and high levels of safety – Iceland doesn’t even have an army.

If you’re really keen to move to Iceland, bear in mind that you’d need a job offer from an Icelandic company or to travel as a digital nomad, which only allows for six months of residence.

To keep up with the high living costs of the country, you should ensure your position provides enough income to match the average Icelandic wage of $5,900.

2. Norway

Norway GDP growth statistics

Source: Statista

HDI Index: 0.961

Safety Index: 9.9

In second place, we have Norway, with an HDI of 0.961. Like its Nordic neighbors, Norway has a chilly climate and a high cost of living. Despite that, it’s one of the happiest countries on Earth, thanks to its high safety levels, robust economy, and beautiful vistas.

Expats have a choice of several different Norwegian cities in addition to Oslo, and the Norwegian government even offers tax incentives for moving to rural areas. If you secure a job in Norway, you can enjoy its excellent work-life balance and high wages, with the average salary reaching almost $5,000.

1. Switzerland

Switzerland quality of life

HDI Index: 0.962

Safety Index: 9.3

The top European country for quality of life is Switzerland. With an HDI index of 0.962, one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and stunning Alpine landscapes, it’s been beckoning expats and tourists from around the world for decades.

Being one of the most stable countries in the world and having one of the world’s best banking systems, Switzerland is home to a highly educated population that supports a good work-life balance. Any expat who’s offered a job with a salary over $7,000 can build a great life here.

References

Kate Sukhanova Senior Statistics Contributor

Kate Sukhanova Senior Statistics Contributor

Kate is an accomplished tech writer and SaaS (Software as a Service) founder, renowned for his expertise in the technology industry. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the esteemed University of Exeter, where she honed his critical thinking and analytical skills.

Beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors, Kate is a true statistics geek. She revels in the world of data and derives insights that drive decision-making and business strategies. This penchant for numbers enhances her ability to craft data-driven articles, guiding readers through complex topics with clarity and reliability.

Kate's passion for knowledge and curiosity about emerging technologies drive her to learn and stay ahead of the curve continuously. She is deeply committed to sharing valuable information about innovations that have a tangible, positive impact on businesses and society.

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