U.S. News Unveils 2016 Best Countries Rankings
New global survey reveals the perceptions people have of nations.
(Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. News Unveils 2016 Best Countries Rankings
By U.S. News Staff |
Jan. 20, 2016, at 8:00 a.m.
What makes a country the best? Is it leadership? Military might? Economic strength? A rich and deep vein of culture and history? Freedom, a stable government and transparency when it comes to business and the political process?
In a word, yes. All of the above contribute to how people perceive what makes one country better than another – and ultimately which one ranks as the best overall.
U.S. News & World Report, in collaboration with BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, sought to answer the question of what makes a best country to produce the Best Countries rankings. The survey sampled the perceptions of more than 16,000 people in four global regions. They were asked to associate 60 countries with specific attributes. An overall score was assigned to countries, based on how they were scored in the attributes. The countries were chosen on measures that included the United Nations' Human Development Index, gross domestic product, tourism and total exports. In all, the 60 countries in the rankings represent about three-fourths of the world's population and about 90 percent of global GDP.
The responses were divided into eight broad topics and a further category called Movers, a research-based metric from BAV that is predictive of a country's future GDP growth. The topics include Adventure, Citizenship, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Influence, Movers, Open for business, Power and Quality of life.
The survey asked people their views on what the best country is on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from the most forward-looking country, to the best country to be a woman, start a career, raise children and many other topics.
[READ: More on how the survey was conducted.]
And the results? Germany is viewed as the overall "best country." The home to Europe's largest economy is seen as the top country for encouraging entrepreneurship, and is highly regarded for providing global leadership and caring for its citizens. Its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom both the Financial Times and Time magazine named as their Person of the Year for 2015, has actively led her government to confront some of the world's most pressing challenges, such as the Greek debt crisis and the waves of immigrants sweeping across Europe.
Germany rose from the ashes of World War II to become Europe's foremost power and a world leader in many areas, not least of which is its economic prowess founded on its network of small and medium businesses known as "Mittlestand." The country is seen as a model for the way in which it trains workers in apprenticeships following secondary school education.
The United States, the world's greatest military power and largest economy, ranks fourth, trailing not only Germany but Canada and the United Kingdom, as well. Canada, which recently elected a new liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is rated highly on quality of life issues and transparency, while the U.K. is seen as an influential country that is the best nation to obtain an education.
[READ: Who Is No. 1? Not the U.S.]
"In terms of equality, we very much believe in it," says Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the U.S. "Some countries have difficulty putting equal rights into their constitution – Canada had it in their charter of rights from the beginning. We continue to believe in inspiration through equality of rights. It's an inspirational part of our culture."
A common thread among the leading countries is a strong role for the government in the everyday lives of the citizenry. Strong social safety nets – including the provision of low-cost college education and health care in countries like Germany, Sweden and Austria – are allied with a joint role for business and government in economic policy. This stands in stark contrast to the United States, where political debates often rage about the role of government in the economy, and soaring university student loan debt is seen as a major national issue threatening future prosperity.
"There really does seem to be some skepticism about some things that we (Americans) think we may do better than other people do, education being a prime one," says Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News and World Report. "Canada and the United Kingdom do better than the U.S. in education. People don't feel as comfortable about U.S. education as perhaps we've been led to believe."
Rounding out the top 10 are Sweden, Australia, Japan, France, the Netherlands and Denmark. Japan, a country known for its technological prowess, is rated highly for its entrepreneurship, while Sweden is rated first in citizenship, a progressive ranking that factors in education and the climate for women and the LGBT community.
Algeria, a North African country facing multiple challenges ranging from international criticism of its record on civil liberties to tackling terrorism and high unemployment, finished at the bottom of the rankings. Other countries that finished at the bottom of the Best Countries rankings include Ukraine, Iran, Nigeria and Pakistan. All of the low-ranking countries face common challenges of corruption, conflict and a poor quality of life for their citizens. Many are struggling with insurgent movements and terrorism within their borders.
Survey respondents see Asia as a key for the future. The top five-ranked countries in the Movers subranking – India, Singapore, China, Thailand and Japan – come from the region. Singapore also is seen as the most forward-looking country, with Japan and South Korea also rated high.
"India, which is the (world's) largest democracy, has emerged as a global leader," Dnyaneshwar Mulay, consul general of India in New York City, says in an interview with BAV. "India encourages pluralism, inclusiveness and equal opportunity to all its citizens. It has strong soft power of long heritage, diverse forms of arts and culture and strong values such as respect for all and non-violence. "
The rankings show that the idea of power is changing around the world, says John Gerzema, chairman and CEO at BAV Consulting. "We live in a social, open and interdependent world. And in this world what we saw that people valued more were things like global citizenship, quality of life and innovation that was creating inclusive prosperity for more people."
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Explore the Best 25 Countries
These countries, which range from Austria to South Korea, performed the best overall in the 2016 Best Countries rankings.
The rankings, formed in partnership with marketing firm BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, aim to gauge global perceptions of the world’s biggest economies.
No. 25: Israel A man walks in front of the Dome of the Rock in the al-Aqsa mosque compound, in Israeli annexed East Jerusalem, on April 23, 2014. The al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City -- built on the holiest site in Judaism and considered the third holiest in Islam -- is a sensitive holy site that is frequently the scene of tensions between the Jewish and Muslim communities. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
(Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 25: Israel
Israel, home to some of the world's holiest sites, ranks No. 25 overall. The country ranks No. 8 in Power and No. 24 in Citizenship.
No. 24: Russia Tourists explore the Red Square in front of St. Basil's Cathedral on October 31, 2013 in Moscow, Russia
(Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
No. 24: Russia
Russia, the world’s largest country by land mass, ranks No. 24 overall. The nation ranks No. 2 in Power, behind the United States, and No. 20 in Entrepreneurship.
No. 23: Portugal LISBON, PORTUGAL - AUGUST 28: View of Placa do Comercio with the equestrian statue of Joseph I of Portugal and the Arco da Rua Augusta on August 28, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal.
(Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)
No. 23: Portugal
Portugal, the westernmost nation of continental Europe, ranks No. 23 overall. The country ranks No. 9 in Heritage and No. 25 in Cultural Influence.
No. 22: India AGRA, INDIA - DECEMBER 01: Woman bride with henna tattoo visit the famous indian sightseeing point Taj Mahal on December 01, 2012 in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. The UNESCO World Heritage and mausoleum Taj Mahal was built from 1632-1653 by Mogul emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)
No. 22: India
India, the world’s largest democracy, ranks No. 22 overall. The country is No. 1 in Movers and No. 6 in Heritage.
No. 21: Thailand Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok Thailand
No. 21: Thailand
Thailand, the only Southeast Asian nation untouched by European colonization, ranks No. 21 overall. The country is No. 4 in Adventure and No. 10 in Open for Business.
No. 20: Brazil People play football at Ipanema beach at sunset in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on January 29, 2014.
(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 20: Brazil
Brazil, one of the world's top tourist destinations, ranks No. 20 overall. The country is No. 1 in Adventure and No. 7 in Cultural Influence.
No. 19: South Korea A crew member listens to his radio as he stands on the deck of a tour boat as it passes the city skyline along the Han River in Seoul on August 28, 2015.
(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 19: South Korea
South Korea, which has a high-tech, service-based economy, ranks No. 19 overall. The country ranks No. 10 in Power and No. 12 in Entrepreneurship.
No. 18: Ireland Irish Landscape, County Clare (Alberto Loyo/Getty Images)
(Alberto Loyo/Getty Images)
No. 18: Ireland
Ireland, nicknamed the Emerald Isle for its well-watered grasslands, ranks No. 18 overall. The country ranks No. 13 in Adventure and No. 11 in Open for Business.
No. 17: China People with umbrellas stand in the rain in front of the skyline of the Lujiazui Financial District in Pudong along the Huangpu River in Shanghai on August 14, 2014. China's industrial production, which measures output at factories, workshops and mines in the world's second-largest economy, rose 9.0 percent year-on-year in July, the government announced on August 13. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
(Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 17: China
China, the world’s most populous nation, ranks No. 17 overall. The country ranks No. 3 in Power and No. 3 in Movers.
No. 16: Spain Spanish matador David Fandila "El Fandi" gestures in front of a bull during a bullfight at the La Malagueta bullring in Malaga on August 22, 2015.
(Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 16: Spain
Spain, which has 17 autonomous regions, ranks No. 16 overall. The country is No. 2 in Heritage and No. 3 in Adventure.
No. 15: Singapore 08 Sep 2014 --- A view of the central business district from the ArtScience museum at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. ---(Copyright Charles Pertwee/Corbis / APImages)
No. 15: Singapore
Singapore, home to one of the world’s busiest ports, ranks No. 15 overall. The nation is No. 2 in Movers and No. 8 in Open for Business.
No. 14: Luxembourg Vianden, Luxembourg, Benelux
No. 14: Luxembourg
Luxembourg, the second-wealthiest country after Qatar, ranks No. 14 overall. The nation ranks No. 1 in Open for Business and No. 10 in Quality of Life.
No. 13: Italy The sculpture 'David'�from 1501/04 by Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarroti at the Museum Accademia di Belle Arti (Galleria dell'Accademia) in Florence, Italy, 21 July 2015. (Fredrik Von Erichsen/AP)
(Fredrik Von Erichsen/AP)
No. 13: Italy
Italy, which has the third-largest economy in the Eurozone, ranks No. 13 overall. The country ranks No. 1 in Heritage and No. 2 in Cultural Influence.
No. 12: Austria Sch�nbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence located in Vienna, Austria. The 1,441-room Baroque palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in the country. (Sergio Del Rosso / Getty Images)
(Sergio Del Rosso/Getty Images)
No. 12: Austria
Austria, which boasts one of the highest standards of living among the economies of the world, ranks No. 12 overall. The country ranks No. 9 in Quality of Life and No. 9 in Citizenship.
No. 11: New Zealand Overhead view of Queenstown and The Remarkables, New Zealand (XXXL) Queenstown at dusk, Otago, New Zealand. Spring has just started and the peaks of the alps in back got their last powder snow. The last sunlight adds a warm tone to the mountain range while Queenstown is already brightly illuminated by the street lights.
No. 11: New Zealand
New Zealand, which gained independence from Britain in 1907, ranks No. 11 overall. The country ranks No. 5 in Adventure and No. 6 in Open for Business.
No. 10: Denmark Coulourful houses and boats can be seen in the Nyhavn district in Copenhagen on August 10, 2010. Denmark will play against Germany in a friendly football match in Kopenhagen on August 11, 2010. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
(Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 10: Denmark
Denmark, a constitutional monarchy, ranks No. 10 overall. The country ranks No. 3 in Citizenship and No. 3 in Quality of Life.
No. 9: Netherlands A canal cruise boat navigates on Herengracht canal, as dusk falls over the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
No. 9: Netherlands
The Netherlands, one of the world’s leading exporters of agriculture, ranks No. 9 overall. The country ranks No. 4 in Citizenship and No. 5 in Quality of Life.
No. 8: France Pigeons fly past as bride and groom are photographed at the Trocadero Plaza opposite the Eiffel tower, at sunrise on October 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LUDOVIC MARIN (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
(Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 8: France
France, one of the world’s oldest countries, ranks No. 8 overall. The country ranks No. 1 in Cultural Influence and No. 4 in Heritage.
No. 7: Japan Japanese gardeners work by Kawaguchi Lake overlooking Mount Fuji in Fujikawaguchiko on May 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
(Fred Dofour/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 7: Japan
Japan, a country of roughly 126 million people, ranks No. 7 overall. The country ranks No. 5 in Movers and No. 6 in Cultural Influence.
No. 6: Australia People enjoy the hot weather at the north end of Bondi Beach during the Labour Day holiday in Sydney on October 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
(Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 6: Australia
Australia, a wealthy nation with a market-based economy, ranks No. 6 overall. The country ranks No. 5 in Citizenship and No. 4 in Quality of Life.
No. 5: Sweden A palace guard stands in front of the Royal Palace while the sun sinks over Grand Hotel in downtown Stockholm, Sweden on September 3, 2013, on the eve of the two-day visit by US President Barack Obama.
(Henrik Montgomery/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 5: Sweden
Sweden, a capitalistic country with a large percent of spending going toward public service, ranks No. 5 overall. The country is No. 1 in Citizenship and No. 2 in Quality of Life.
No. 4: United States Scenes from the World War II Memorial on the National Mall
(Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)
No. 4: United States
The United States, the world's largest economy, ranks No. 4 overall. The country ranks No. 1 in Power and No. 3 in Cultural Influence.
No. 3: United Kingdom A double-decker bus travels through Piccadilly Circus on March 19, 2012 in London, England. London's West End is synonymous with theatre productions, containing over forty venues showing plays, musicals and operas, the theatres typically play host to over 14 million spectators viewing over 18,000 performances each year.
(Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
No. 3: United Kingdom
The United Kingdom, a former great colonial power, ranks No. 3 overall. The country ranks No. 5 in Cultural Influence and No. 5 in Power.
No. 2: Canada The downtown skyline is viewed after sunset from Centre Island in Toronto Harbour on July 1, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Canada's most populous city is undergoing a major economic boom with high-rise construction and renovation projects underway throughout the downtown and outlying neighborhoods. (George Rose/Getty Images)
(George Rose/Getty Images)
No. 2: Canada
Canada, the second-largest country in the world after Russia, ranks No. 2 overall. The country ranks No. 1 in Quality of Life and No. 2 in Citizenship.
No. 1: Germany BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 20: People gather outside the Reichstag on April 20, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. The Reichstag, home of the Bundestag, the German parliament, is among the city's major landmarks and a favourite tourist destination. (Photo by Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)
(Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)
No. 1: Germany
Germany, the most populous nation in the European Union, ranks No. 1 overall. The country is No. 1 in Entrepreneurship and No. 4 in Power.
Learn More About Best Countries Skyscrapers at the seashore in Busan, South Korea.
(Jong-Won Heo/Getty Images)
Learn More About Best Countries
Don't see your country here? See the full list of the 2016 Best Countries and explore how nations did in areas like Power, Citizenship and Quality of Life.
The survey provides not only a snapshot of what makes a particular country good or bad, but also offers a road map to governments and other institutions on how they might adopt policies that would win them more favorable perceptions, says David Reibstein, professor of marketing at the Wharton School.
"They have ministers of foreign trade and they have ministers of tourism and spend a lot of time trying to attract commerce," Reibstein says. "And that attraction is going to come through people's perceptions of whether or not you're a good place to do business. And therefore it's really important for government leaders and for businesses within those countries to really focus on these perceptions."
In some cases, the results hue to long-held opinions about certain countries. France and Italy score highly, for example, on cultural heritage, be it the tremendous works of art and literature in France or the world-famous cuisine of Italy. In other cases, there are surprises. Luxembourg is viewed as the best country to conduct business, while the Southeast Asian nations of Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines are seen as the best countries to start a business. Egypt, a country plagued by violence and poverty, is seen as a country with promise, ranking high in the "Movers" topic.
"I think countries end up having sort of personas," says Dennis Ross, in an interview with BAV. Ross, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a veteran White House adviser on Middle East policy, cites Germany as a country with a reputation of having institutions that perform well. "There's an image internationally that Germany functions and functions well. There is a kind of history – certainly since the Second World War – of Germany transforming itself and becoming a country that basically works."
At a time of global movement, shrinking borders and international business that connects economies, countries can no longer exist alone, separate from their neighbors and natural competitors.
"Government leaders should be paying attention to these rankings," says Reibstein. "This is how they're perceived in the world and it affects their economies from within."
Tags: Best Countries, United States, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden