Overall Best Countries Ranking
The overall ranking of Best Countries measures global performance on a variety of metrics.
#1 in Best Countries Overall
No Change in Rank from 2017
Switzerland, officially called the Swiss Federation, is a small country in Central Europe made up of 16,000 square miles of glacier-carved Alps, lakes and valleys. It’s one of the world’s wealthiest countries, and has been well-known for centuries for its neutrality.
The Swiss Confederation was initially founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among cantons. In 1499, the Confederation became independent from the Holy Roman Empire. In 1848, a new constitution turned the Confederation into a centralized federal government, ending a period of conflict. Since then, the country has enjoyed relative tranquility.
$659.8 billion gdp 8.4 million population $60,374 gdp per capita, ppp
#2 in Best Countries Overall
No Change in Rank from 2017
Canada takes up about two-fifths of the North American continent, making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia. The country is sparsely populated, with most of its 35.5 million residents living within 125 miles of the U.S. border. Canada’s expansive wilderness to the north plays a large role in Canadian identity, as does the country’s reputation of welcoming immigrants.
Although the Norse briefly settled in Canada during the 10th century, European exploration accelerated in the 1500s. France and Britain angled for control over the region, with the British cementing their dominance in 1763. The country was a collection of British colonies until it became a self-governing dominion in 1867.
$1.5 trillion gdp 36.3 million population $46,441 gdp per capita, ppp
#3 in Best Countries Overall
#4 out of 80 in 2017
Germany, the most populous nation in the European Union, possesses one of the largest economies in the world and has seen its role in the international community grow steadily since reunification. The Central European country borders nine nations, and its landscape varies, from the northern plains that reach to the North and Baltic seas to the Bavarian Alps in the south.
$3.5 trillion gdp 82.7 million population $48,449 gdp per capita, ppp
#4 in Best Countries Overall
#3 out of 80 in 2017
The United Kingdom is a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence. Located off the northwest corner of Europe, the country includes the island of Great Britain – which contains England, Scotland and Wales – and the northern portion of the island of Ireland.
The year 2017 ushered in anxiety about the country’s role on the global stage, due to the public voting in the summer of 2016 to leave the European Union. The vote raises questions about the European Union, as well as the policies supporting the eurozone.
$2.6 trillion gdp 65.6 million population $42,421 gdp per capita, ppp
#5 in Best Countries Overall
No Change in Rank from 2017
Japan, one of the world’s most literate and technically advanced nations, is an East Asian country made up of four main islands. While most of Japan is covered by mountains and heavily wooded areas, the country’s roughly 126 million people lead a distinctly urban lifestyle. Long culturally influenced by its neighbors, today the country blends its ancient traditions with aspects of Western life.
$4.9 trillion gdp 127.0 million population $41,220 gdp per capita, ppp
#6 in Best Countries Overall
No Change in Rank from 2017
The Kingdom of Sweden, flanked by Norway to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east, expands across much of the Scandinavian Peninsula and is one of the largest countries in the European Union by land mass. Capital city Stockholm was claimed in the 16th century, and border disputes through the Middle Ages established the modern-day nation.
$511.0 billion gdp 9.9 million population $49,759 gdp per capita, ppp
#7 in Best Countries Overall
#8 out of 80 in 2017
The Commonwealth of Australia occupies the Australian continent. The country also includes some islands, most notably Tasmania. Indigenous people occupied the land for at least 40,000 years before the first British settlements of the 18th century.
$1.2 trillion gdp 24.1 million population $48,712 gdp per capita, ppp
#8 in Best Countries Overall
#7 out of 80 in 2017
The United States of America is a North American nation that is the world’s most dominant economic and military power. Likewise, its cultural imprint spans the world, led in large part by its popular culture expressed in music, movies and television. In 2016 the country elected Donald Trump president. Trump’s rhetoric and stances on issues including immigration and foreign trade have raised questions around the world, including from the country’s closest allies, about the nation’s future course on the global stage.
Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. launched its War on Terror, including the Iraq War, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and other military strikes, including the 2011 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The war has had wide-reaching effects on the country’s politics, economy and global alliances that resonate to this day.
$18.6 trillion gdp 323.1 million population $57,608 gdp per capita, ppp
#9 in Best Countries Overall
No Change in Rank from 2017
It is difficult to overstate the influence France has on the world, both in the past and today. Located in Western Europe, France is one of the world’s oldest countries, and its reach extends around the globe through science, politics, economics and perhaps above all, culture.
Starting in the Middle Ages, France evolved through kingdom, empire and finally, into a republic. It was one of the first nations to champion the rights of the individual. France today is a democracy with a separation of power falling between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
$2.5 trillion gdp 66.9 million population $42,336 gdp per capita, ppp
#10 in Best Countries Overall
#11 out of 80 in 2017
Situated along the fringes of Western Europe, the Netherlands is a coastal lowland freckled with windmills characteristic of its development around the water. Three major European rivers – the Rhine, Meuse and Schelde – run through neighbors Germany and Belgium into the nation’s busy ports.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands emerged in 1815 after years of Spanish and later French occupation. In 2010, a collection of island territories in the Caribbean known as the Dutch Antilles were disbanded, but Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten remain constituent countries within the Kingdom.
Known as Dutch, the people of the Netherlands have formed what has long been considered a tolerant society, though some politicians are increasingly voicing concerns over immigration and Islam.. In 2001, the country became the first to legalize same-sex marriage, and national stances on drugs, prostitution, euthanasia and abortion are liberal. Holland also boasts the highest concentration of museums in the world. It was the birthplace of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, as well as the microscope, telescope and thermometer.
More than 1,000 bridges and 20,000 miles of bike paths connect the densely populated nation, with most citizens concentrated in a grouping of cities along the coast, known as the Randstad. Much of the country is underwater, and the 40 million people that touch down in capital city Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport each year land more than a dozen feet below sea level.
The seat of the government is located about 40 miles southwest of the capital in The Hague. The Dutch operate under a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, within which there are two main political parties. In 2012, leaders of the two parties signed a cooperative coalition agreement, focused on improving health care, the housing market, the labor market, foreign policy and the energy sector.
[Explore the top universities in the Netherlands.]
Known for its tulips, this high-income, developed nation is one of the world’s leading exporters of agriculture, an industry that has become mostly mechanized. An open-market policy and prime transportation location help the Netherlands maintain a trade surplus, but the economy continues to recover from an expensive stimulus program designed to help it bounce back after the economic downturn in 2009.
The Netherlands is active in United Nations peacekeeping efforts and headquarters The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It was a founding member of NATO and the modern-day European Union, of which it has been quite vocally supportive.
$770.8 billion gdp 17.0 million population $51,249 gdp per capita, ppp
#11 in Best Countries Overall
#12 out of 80 in 2017
The Kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 10th century and includes two North Atlantic island nations, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Along with Sweden and Norway, it forms Scandinavia, a cultural region in Northern Europe.
Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, also serves as the country’s cultural and industrial hub. With a population of more than 1 million, Copenhagen is home to notable institutions such as the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Copenhagen also serves as a hub connecting Northern Europe with the rest of the world, with the largest international airport in Scandinavia, an active port, a subway system and the Oresund Bridge, connecting the city with Malmo, Sweden.
$306.1 billion gdp 5.7 million population $48,230 gdp per capita, ppp
#12 in Best Countries Overall
#10 out of 80 in 2017
The Kingdom of Norway is the westernmost country in the Scandinavian peninsula, made up mostly of mountainous terrain. Nearly all of its population lives in the south, surrounding the capital, Oslo. Norway’s coastline is made up of thousands of miles of fjords, bays and island shores.
The Norwegians developed a maritime culture, and were active throughout the Viking era, establishing settlements in Iceland and Greenland. For many years, Norway’s fate was tied to Denmark and Sweden. In 1905, Norway gained independence from Sweden through a referendum. The country was neutral during both World Wars but was nonetheless occupied by Nazi Germany for five years.
$370.6 billion gdp 5.2 million population $69,407 gdp per capita, ppp
#13 in Best Countries Overall
#14 out of 80 in 2017
British and Polynesian influences course through picturesque New Zealand, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean southeast of Australia. Early Maori settlers ceded sovereignty to British invaders with the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and European settlers flooded in.
Today, 70 percent of Kiwis, a common term for the people of New Zealand after a native flightless bird, are of European descent. A sense of pride has surged among the Maori, the country’s first settlers who now account for about 14 percent, as homeland grievances become more openly addressed.
Though the British monarch remains head of state, New Zealand has operated under an independent parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister since its independence in 1907. The vast majority of its 4.5 million people are concentrated in the north island, with nearly one-third living in Auckland. But low density and scattered populations make for peaceful exploration of the nation’s impressive mountains and pristine beaches of “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movie fame.
New Zealand saw impressive growth and transformation in the decades following independence. The export market, abounding with dairy, sheep, beef, poultry, fruit, vegetables and wine, was opened beyond the United Kingdom, and manufacturing and tourism were expanded. Per capita income remains high and, at 7.4 percent, education expenditures as a percent of gross domestic product are some of the highest in the world.
[Explore the top universities in New Zealand.]
The Kiwi spirit and culture are personified by such notable natives as Sir Edmund Hillary who first climbed Mount Everest in 1953 and Lord Rutherford, who split the atom. The bungee jump, Hamilton Jet boat, referee’s whistle and frozen meat are also credited to New Zealanders.
Since 1980, New Zealand has been a nuclear free zone. It is a leader in peacekeeping and global security and party to key international organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Pacific Islands Forum.
$185.0 billion gdp 4.7 million population $37,165 gdp per capita, ppp
#14 in Best Countries Overall
#13 out of 80 in 2017
Geography defines the history and culture of Nordic Finland, one of the most northern-reaching countries in the world. Bordered by Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, Finland and its vast stretches of heavily forested open land acts as a northern gate between West and East.
Finland is a bilingual country – Finnish and Swedish are both official languages.
$236.8 billion gdp 5.5 million population $42,261 gdp per capita, ppp
#15 in Best Countries Overall
#16 out of 80 in 2017
Italy is a south-central European country, whose boot-shaped borders extend into the Mediterranean Sea. The country’s historical cities, world-renowned cuisine and geographic beauty make it a popular destination for more than 40 million tourists each year. The nation is home to Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, and houses two countries within its borders – the Vatican and San Marino.
$1.8 trillion gdp 60.6 million population $36,823 gdp per capita, ppp
#16 in Best Countries Overall
#15 out of 80 in 2017
Founded as a British trading colony in the 19th century, Singapore is a bustling metropolis in Southeast Asia and home to one of the world’s busiest ports. The vast majority of its 5.7 million citizens live on the eponymous capital island, and dozens of surrounding islands complete the city state.
Singapore gained self governance in 1959, and in 1963 joined the Federation of Malaysia. In 1965 it left the federation and became independent as the Republic of Singapore. Today, it operates under a conservative parliamentary republic that is world-renowned for its strict laws and tight regulation. While safety and security serve as a major point of pride, residents and visitors are subject to harsh penalties for chewing gum, littering and more.
One of Asia’s four economic tigers, Singapore has seen impressive growth in recent years as efficient manufacturing and production practices have made way for free-market innovation in the booming electronics and pharmaceutical industries. Gross domestic product per capita is high and unemployment is low, making Singapore one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
Singapore is densely populated, with most citizens living in urban high-rises. The Singaporean government has forecasted exponential population growth in the coming decades, with immigrants expected to account for more than half of the population by 2030.
[Explore the top universities in Singapore.]
Space constraints coupled with rapid population growth contribute to concerns about the rising cost of living and income inequality. Conservation, land reclamation efforts and improved environment-friendly practices amid the urbanization and industrial pollution are also a focus.
Four official languages – Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil – cater to the diverse population of a nation that has been an important gateway for international trade. Many also speak Singlish, a slang dialect. Local cuisine blends elements of Chinese, Indian and Western traditions, among others, as do the architecture and local festivals.
Singapore headquarters the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and is a member of a number of additional international organizations, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.
$297.0 billion gdp 5.6 million population $87,832 gdp per capita, ppp
#17 in Best Countries Overall
#18 out of 80 in 2017
Austria a culturally rich, high-income parliamentary democracy that hosts several key international organizations. Located in the heart of Central Europe, the modern Austrian state was shaped by the two world wars of the 20th century.
$386.4 billion gdp 8.7 million population $47,726 gdp per capita, ppp
#18 in Best Countries Overall
#17 out of 80 in 2017
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a landlocked country in northern Europe with Belgium to the west, France to the south and Germany to the east. The country is one of the smallest in the world and the second-wealthiest after Qatar. Castles and churches dot its forests and rolling hills.
Luxembourg has fallen under the rule of many states and kingdoms since its emergence in the 10th century, but has always remained a distinct political unit. After years of control under the Hapsburgs, Luxembourg formed a union with the Netherlands in 1815. The country, whose boundaries have constricted over time, won independence in 1867.
$59.9 billion gdp 583.0 thousand population $105,741 gdp per capita, ppp
#19 in Best Countries Overall
No Change in Rank from 2017
A number of independent kingdoms united in 1492 to form the Kingdom of Spain, a cultural patchwork that continues to shape the modern nation’s dynamic identity. Spain comprises much of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal on the southwestern edge of Europe. It also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and two enclaves in North Africa.
$1.2 trillion gdp 46.4 million population $36,347 gdp per capita, ppp
#20 in Best Countries Overall
No Change in Rank from 2017
Home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, China has been ruled by the Communist Party since 1949, when the nation was established as the People’s Republic of China. The country is the world’s most populous and is considered the second-largest by land mass.$11.2 trillion gdp 1.4 billion population $15,395 gdp per capita, ppp