The Most Prosperous Countries in the World

Based in London, the Legatum Institute is a global think tank and charity focused on promoting prosperity around the world. Among its signature tools to that end is the Legatum Prosperity Index, an annual publication that ranks 142 countries in terms of both total wealth and overall societal well being. The report determines its findings based on 89 variables spanning eight categories: Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity; Governance; Education; Health; Safety & Security; Personal Freedom; and Social Capital.

The newly published 2015 edition can be read here (PDF), with full rankings and data available at Prosperity.com. Norway topped the list for the seventh year in a row, with its consistently high performance being attributed to the “freedom it offers its citizens, the quality of its healthcare system and social bonds between its people”.

2015 Prosperity Index. Legatum Institute / Prosperity.com.

2015 Prosperity Index. Legatum Institute / Prosperity.com.

Switzerland ranked second place for the third consecutive time, while Denmark came in third, one spot higher than last year. Runners up, in descending order, were New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Finland, and Ireland — e.g., the usual suspects when it comes to metrics of economic, social, and political well being.

The United States came in at 11th place, having been just barely denied the top spots due to its poor showing in one category: personal safety and security. Most other major developed countries landed within the top thirty, including Germany (14th place), the U.K. (15th), Japan (19th), and France (22nd). Singapore, which is almost always in the top ten in these sorts of list, ranked 17th due its shortcomings in personal freedoms.

The BRICS countries, with the notable exception of India, broadly landed in the middle, reflecting their rapid transition towards greater development: China led the pack at 52nd place, followed by Brazil at 54th, Russia (58th), South Africa (75th), and India (99th). Among the other countries cited as being rising powers were Vietnam (55th), Mexico (67th), Indonesia (69th), Turkey (78th), Iran (106th), Egypt (110th), and Nigeria (125th).

So if the index is to be believed, most of the future major players in the world have a long way to go to bring prosperity to their people. Granted, a country does not need to have a wealthy and flourishing populace to be a political, economic, and military force in the world, but it certainly helps.

With seven years of data to compile and compare, the Prosperity Index has also been able to track national progress.

Among the report’s official “headline findings” are the following:

  • Indonesia has performed better than any country in the world over the past seven years, rising 21 places up the rankings to 69th this year. The country’s success is the result of a vibrant economy, rising 23 places in the Economy sub-index and 14 places in the Entrepreneurship & Opportunity sub-index. Start-up costs have fallen from 26% to 21.1% of gross national income per capita, the number of secure internet servers has increased by 5.3 (per 1 million people), and the number of people satisfied with their living standards has increased from 63% to 71%.
  • Another strong performer since 2009 is Rwanda, which has risen 17 places up the Prosperity Index and now ranks 101st.
  • At the other end of the scale the poorest performers have been Syria (down 23 places), Tunisia (down 28 places) and Venezuela (down 16 places).
  • This year Singapore ranks 1st in the Economy sub-index, up from 2nd last year, displacing Switzerland. The country has the second highest capital per worker in the world: $240,750 per worker. 47% of the country’s manufactured exports are classified as ‘high-tech’, the third highest in the world.
  • This year the United States ranks 33rd on the Safety & Security sub-index, down from 31st last year. Safety & Security is the only sub-index in which the US ranks outside the top 30. It is also the only Western country to register high levels of state-sponsored political violence. According to Amnesty International the country has the same level of political violence as Saudi Arabia.
  • This year the UK ranks 6th on the Entrepreneurship & Opportunity sub-index, up from 8th last year. The country now ranks the best in Europe for people starting businesses and 88% of Britons believe that if you work hard you can get ahead in life, up from 84% last year, and 78% in 2010.
  • Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, and Ireland are the five most tolerant countries towards immigrants. The UK comes in at 17th. 92% of Canadians believe that their country is a good place for immigrants; this figure is 90% for Norway, New Zealand, and Iceland; and 89% for Ireland.
  • Canada is now the freest country in the world, having risen five places to 1st in the Personal Freedom sub-index. The country is the most tolerant of immigrants in the world. 92% of people think the country is a good place for immigrants. It is also the fifth most tolerant of ethnic minorities. 92% of people think that the country is a good place for ethnic minorities. 94% of Canadians believe that they have the freedom to choose the course of their own lives — the fifth highest in the world.
  • Three of the five Nordic countries have slipped down the Economy sub-index rankings since 2009 and the one that has improved, Iceland, remains low at 29th. The countries are failing to address unemployment. Unemployment stands at 7.8% in Sweden, 9.4% in Finland, and 6.3% in Denmark. Across all the Nordic countries employment is only 59.3%.
  • The Prosperity Index shows that the world has become a more dangerous place since 2009. In the last seven years there have been dramatic declines in the Safety & Security sub-index in Africa and the Middle East, and all other regions except Europe have witnessed some decline. This has been driven by increased tension, violence, and displaced people.

What are your thoughts about these results?

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