The 2005 human development report published by the UN development programme has placed the Irish second in the wealthiest nations league with an average per capita gross domestic product of 30,384. The report also ranked Ireland above the USA and Japan in terms of human development, putting the Emerald Isle in 8th position, behind Luxembourg and Switzerland. First in the development index was Norway, which leads the world in terms of quality of life.

However the same report also pointed out that among the worlds wealthiest countries, Irelands distribution of wealth was one of the most unequal, with the wealthiest 10 per cent of the population being 9.7 times richer than the poorest 10 per cent. Despite having risen 10 places in the rankings of economic performance, life expectancy and education standards since 2002, Ireland still has an unacceptably high illiteracy rate (22.6 per cent of the population), second only to Italy among the worlds industrialized nations, and over 15 per cent of the people live in poverty.