Switzerland held its position as the No. 1 country in the world, according to the 2018 Best Countries report, a rankings and analysis project by U.S. News & World Report, Y&R's BAV Group and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In its third year, the rankings evaluate 80 countries across a range of criteria, from economic influence and power to citizenship and quality of life, to capture how nations are perceived on a global scale.
For the first time, respondents were asked their opinions of major world leaders. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are viewed as the most respected globally, while U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin saw the highest disapproval ratings. Among top business leaders, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, was the most respected.
"U.S. News is known globally for its in-depth rankings of complex institutions, like university and hospital systems," said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News. "We're taking the same approach with governments to help citizens, business executives and policymakers better evaluate their countries and their leadership."
Key Findings in the 2018 Best Countries Report:
- Switzerland is No. 1, followed by No. 2 Canada, as countries with more progressive social and environmental policies dominate the overall rankings. Nordic nations – Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway – rank in the top 15 overall. Denmark is the No. 1 country for raising children and for women. Sweden takes the top spot for green living, and Norway ranks at the top for citizenship.
- Germany moved up one spot to No. 3, replacing the U.K., which fell to No. 4. Germany's reputation as an open nation with government transparency and strong gender equality led to its rise in the rankings. The U.K.'s drop, however, signals a growing lack of confidence in its economic strength post-Brexit.
- Japan remains at No. 5, scoring high marks in entrepreneurship, up-and-coming economies and rich traditions. Singapore and China, at No. 16 and No. 20 respectively, follow among the highest ranked countries in Asia. Both nations are viewed as having a strong potential for economic growth.
- The U.S. falls one spot to No. 8, after No. 6 Sweden and No. 7 Australia. It drops in two important categories: open for business, which looks at market-oriented countries, and movers, which evaluates nations with up-and-coming economies. Perceptions of the U.S. as politically stable, democratic and having an open travel policy have decreased. However, the nation remains No. 1 in power for the third year, closely followed by Russia at No. 2.
- Luxembourg is the most business-friendly nation, Germany is No. 1 in entrepreneurship and Switzerland is the best to headquarter a corporation. The U.K. leads in education, Canada is No. 1 for quality of life and New Zealand is the favorite for retirement. Brazil is the No. 1 country to visit, and Italyranks highest as the nation with the richest traditions.
"For the countries that rose to the top of this year's rankings, it is once again clear that military vigor and economic power are no longer the key determinants to a country's brand success. The Best Countries rankings continue to show us that just as brands must focus on a wide range of attributes to raise profiles and win over audiences, nations that are multidimensional and that reflect a wider range of qualities, such as innovation and compassion, have the brand appeal that propels them on the global stage," said David Sable, Y&R Global CEO.
The 2018 Best Countries ranking methodology relies on data gathered from a proprietary survey of more than 21,000 business leaders, informed elites and general citizens. "The Best Countries report speaks to the effect a nation's brand can have on its economic prosperity and perceived standing in the world," said David Reibstein, professor of marketing at the Wharton School.
The Best Countries rankings are the centerpiece of the growing U.S. News Best Countries portal, a platform combining in-depth news articles, interactive data visualization tools, video, photos and op-eds from global experts in government, business and academia. The platform is part of the expanding government rankings portfolio at U.S. News, which includes the Best States project and the upcoming Healthiest Communities rankings.
2018 Best Countries Rankings
*See the full rankings here
4. United Kingdom
8. United States
To Start a Business
To Headquarter a Corporation
1. United States
1. United Kingdom
2. United States
For Comfortable Retirement
1. New Zealand