Great Britain? How the UK shapes up against the rest of the world

Updated 0641 GMT (1441 HKT) June 2, 2017

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(CNN)People in Britain are heading to the polls for a snap election, just two years after the last vote, and hot on the heels of the Brexit and Scottish independence referendums.

While Brexit remains a core concern for voters, traditional issues such as the economy, immigration and healthcare have dominated.
Here's how the UK stacks up against the rest of the world:


The economy is one of the issues British voters care most about, according to the UK polling service YouGov -- and it's at the center of the main parties' campaign rhetoric.
The UK's economy -- the world's fifth-largest -- grew by only 1.9% in 2016, according to the UK's Office for National Statistics.
    But with departure from the EU looming, financial uncertainty abounds: investments are on hold, some companies have said they will move thousands of jobs out of the UK, and retail spending is low. For ordinary Britons, financial insecurity has been felt by poor wage increases and job insecurity for the last decade.
    As unemployment levels have dropped, wages have stagnated. The numbers of people on controversial zero-hours contracts (which don't guarantee any job security, benefits, or workers' rights) and short-hours contracts (which guarantee as little as one hour's work a month) have risen, according to the ONS.
    Nearly a million people in Britain were on zero-hours contracts by the end of 2016, according to the ONS -- a 13% surge on the previous year. The Labour party has promised to end zero-hours contracts and unpaid internships if elected in; Theresa May's Conservative party says it will "review" the practice.
    There are more jobs on the books, and unemployment is at its lowest level in four decades, but many British workers are still facing a precarious balancing act to make ends meet.
    And to make it worse, income inequality is on the rise.
    ONS figures show there has been a gradual decrease in income inequality in the UK over the last decade, but state benefits and tax credits are papering over the cracks.
    In real terms, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer -- though this is by no means unique to the UK.
      Income inequality in the world's richest countries is at its highest level in decades, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


      Immigration is one of the issues that shaped the Brexit debate, a key subject in many parties' political manifestos and a daily topic of conversation in the UK.
      Theresa May has vowed to cut net migration down to the tens of thousands, double the amount companies must pay to hire workers from countries outside the EU and raise the financial threshold required for British citizens who want to bring their non-EU spouses and families to live with them (currently set at £18,600).
      Labour says it will scrap many of those policies, but there's at least one thing they can agree on: after Brexit, the free movement of people between EU countries and the UK will have to end.
      More than a million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, but since then many countries have begun tightening their immigration rules -- even as the fallout from war and bloodshed in the Middle East and Africa escalates.
      At least 70,877 refugees and migrants have arrived on Europe's shores since the beginning of 2017, according to the UN refugee agency.
      More than five million Syrians have fled their homeland since the start of the conflict in 2011. Many British voters have worried about an influx of Syrian refugees, but the UK is nowhere near resettling the number of people they promised to bring in by 2020, under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme. So far, 7,307 of the 20,000 Syrians the UK said it would help have been given refuge.
      The Conservatives have promised to reduce asylum claims even further if they are re-elected in June.
        Labour has stressed the difference between refugees and economic migrants, pledging that that they will not "scapegoat migrants nor blame them for economic failures" and promised to "uphold the proud British tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees."
        Germany resettled 158,657 Syrians in 2015 and 266,250 in 2016, according to the Federal bureau for Migration and Refugees. Canada welcomed 25,000 between 2015-2016. The US admitted just 1,900 Syrian refugees in the first four years of that country's conflict, although it took 12,486 in 2016, surpassing its original 10,000 commitment.


        Healthcare is a top issue for many voters, and that's no surprise -- the UK's flagship public health system, the National Health Service (NHS), has been facing serious financial problems for years.
        The system, which is funded through tax and compulsory national insurance contributions, delivers free healthcare to anyone who needs it, across the UK.
        The number of family doctors has barely increased in a decade -- but it's not all bad news for the sick and injured. Hospitals have seen an increase of around 20,000 doctors since 2006, according to the National Health Service.
        But with a growing, aging population, and cuts to health and social care budgets, a perfect storm of problems for an already overstressed and underfunded NHS continues to brew.
        If elected, May's Conservative party has pledged to increase government spending on the NHS by a minimum of £8 billion ($10.36 billion) over the next five years - but hasn't said where it will come from.
        Globally, the UK spends about as much as the Canadians, who also have a government-run national health service.


          Around 44% of British people have graduated from higher education -- in line with many countries with similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
          Jeremy Corbyn believes higher education is a positive tool for increasing social mobility, and his Labour Party has promised to abolish tuition fees for university students. It says it will pay for education from general taxation.
          May's vision for education is more traditional: she wants to bring back selective grammar schools and increase the number of free schools. Critics argue that May's plans to raise university tuition fees to pay for non-government-funded schools will perpetuate a cycle of inequality.


          Buying a house in the UK has never been more difficult -- especially for first-time buyers. Even renting has proved difficult for many in recent years.
          Although housebuilding has slowly risen from its lowest level in 2010, construction on new builds remains at historical lows. Homelessness is also on the rise.
          Both the Conservatives and Labour have pledged to build a million affordable homes over the course of the next parliament (by 2022).


          The UK records far fewer homicides than many of its European neighbors.
          But an epidemic of knife crime, particularly among young people in large cities, has been rising steadily in recent years. In 2016, 16,747 people in England and Wales were assaulted with a knife, according to ONS figures.
          By contrast, gun crime is of little concern to most British voters: strict laws banning the sale and ownership of handguns have been in force since 1997, and shotguns and rifles require police-issued licenses.
          Across the pond, Americans carry more guns per capita than any other country in the world. Our calculations based on OECD data show that Americans are 51 times more likely to be killed by gunfire than in the United Kingdom.


          The UK is one of 147 countries to have ratified the Paris Agreement, a landmark deal that asks every country to reduce their greenhouse emissions and hailed by then-US President Barack Obama as "a turning point for the world." On Thursday, President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Paris accord.
          Globally, the UK ranks far below the worst polluters, China and the US.
          The UK is halfway to its 2050 target -- to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% from 1990 levels.
          Although the Conservative Party says it will continue to "lead the world in environmental protection," May's commitment to the environment isn't clear.
          In one of her first acts as Prime Minister, she closed the Department of Energy and Climate Change -- folding it into the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
          May has also supported fracking, a controversial oil and gas production technique that comes with serious environmental risks including earthquakes and water contamination.
          When it comes to air pollution levels, the UK -- along with Germany, France, Spain and Italy -- still have work to do, according to the European Commission, which sent them final warnings for breaching permitted levels of potentially deadly nitrogen dioxide.