Society - Culture
By: - at March 9, 2015

Top 15 Countries with the Best Economy

Since the most recent global economic crisis beginning in late 2008, everyday people have become more involved and eager to learn about the state of their country's economy. When things like jobs and personal finances are at stake, it’s only natural for people to become more interested in economics and economic policy. In countries where economic policy and performance are lagging behind similar nations, citizens tend to be more if not overly concerned with the decisions and actions of economic policy makers.


It appears that some countries are in a much better financial situation than others and in turn, should worry less about money than countries with less attractive financial figures. When measuring the health of a country’s economy, the most important indicator is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. The GDP per capita is the amount of wealth a country produces in one year, divided by the number of habitants. Though wage inequality needs to be kept in mind as well as other issues in regard to prices, GDP per capita still stands as the best way of assessing a country's economic performance. It also serves as a great benchmarking tool when it comes to comparing the economic performance of different countries.

Annualized GDP Growth from 1990 to 2007
Annualized GDP Growth from 1990 to 2007

If you want to know which countries are the global financial leaders and which countries have the best standard of living, here is a list of the countries with the highest GDP per capita.

15)  Canada
GDP:  $1.82 trillion. Population:  34.88 million.

Canada which is located just north of the United States and famous for its maple syrup, has a lot more to offer to its citizens than just some delicious liquid for pancakes. Canada’s income disparity (that is, the difference between the lowest and highest wages) is very low, and citizens enjoy a single payer healthcare system. Single payer means that healthcare is universal and afforded to all citizens and healthcare is provided by the national government, financed by tax revenue.

single payer healthcare

Canada's economy is mostly driven by the service sector, with three-fourths of the employed population working in the service industry. Another important part of Canada’s economy is the primary sector. The primary sector is defined by jobs that make direct use of natural resources. Canada covers a large area of land that is full of natural resources. Since these resources can be utilized either directly or as manufactured finished goods, Canada has a high level of exports. The two main Canadian exports are wood and petroleum-based products.

Log Driving in Vancouver, British Columbia
Log Driving in Vancouver, British Columbia
By Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

Both of these exports are mired in controversy as environmental concerns face both the logging and petroleum industries. Due to the globe's insatiable demand for these types of products, Canada will likely benefit from future exports with little to no impact from the environmental movement.

GDP per capita:  $42,533.

14)  Sweden
GDP:  $525.7 billion. Population:  9.51 million.

Sweden is officially known as the Kingdom of Sweden and despite what you may think, IKEA furniture is not the driving force behind Sweden's economic success. The keys to Sweden's economic success are based on the country's export oriented, mixed economy consisting of manufactured goods, energy, and services. Stockholm is considered to be Sweden's economic center.

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden
By Holger.Ellgaard via Wikimedia Commons

The main natural resources that Sweden produces for exportation are timber and iron ore. As far as energy exports are concerned, hydropower is what is predominantly exported and the major player is the Swedish power company Vattenfall.

Vattenfall Hydroelectric Power Station
Vattenfall Hydroelectric Power Station

Engineering specialized products, pharmaceutical products, and telecommunication technology and services make up the rest of Sweden's mixed economy.

GDP per capita:  $43,180.

13)  The Netherlands
GDP:  $772.2 billion. Population:  16.77 million.

When talking about the Netherlands, you probably only think of the territory situated north of Germany and Belgium. This is only a portion of what constitutes the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands also includes three Caribbean islands. However, when talking about the country's GDP, these additional Dutch territories are omitted. Number 13 is only talking about the European territory; call it Netherlands proper. The economy in the Netherlands is mostly known for having healthy relationships with industry, moderate unemployment rate as well as inflation, a sizable trade surplus, and as a critical European transportation hub.

The Netherlands has a productive and healthy fishing industry thanks to the rich coastline of the North Sea, and the Netherlands exports all sorts of oceanic products to many other countries.

 Dutch Fish Supplier Ekofish Crew and Vessel
 Dutch Fish Supplier Ekofish Crew and Vessel

Banking and financial services serve as another extremely important portion of economic performance for the Netherlands. Other key industries revolve around the development of chemicals, metallurgy and machinery, and producing electrical goods. Despite its small size, the Netherlands attracts many tourists each year.

Canals of Amsterdam
Canals of Amsterdam
By Patrick Clenet via Wikimedia Commons

Famous cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam draw many foreigners, and tourism serves as another very significant portion of the Dutch economy. Famous companies like Heineken and TomTom also call the Netherlands home, which only adds to the economic prosperity of this small country.

GDP per capita:  $43,198.

12)  Ireland
GDP:  $210.3 billion. Population:  4.58 million.

Ireland is the third biggest island in all of Europe, and is situated on the North Atlantic Ocean just west of Great Britain. The island of Ireland is actually divided into two countries. One of them is the Republic of Ireland, which separated from the British Commonwealth in 1949 and then joined the European Union in 1973. The national currency for the Republic of Ireland is the Euro. To the north lies Northern Ireland, a smaller part of the country that is still a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is still a part of the UK and uses the pound for its currency.

map of ireland

The economy of Ireland is defined as a modern knowledge economy. Ireland's economy is heavily based on services, high-tech industries, and is largely dependent on trade.

Ireland’s strongest industry is energy, and the Irish use peat as fuel very similar to the way oil is utilized. Peat is a brown, soil-like material, consisting of partly decomposed vegetable matter. Although there are may advantages of peat over the using of petroleum, there are only very few areas in the world where peat is used as a local fuel.

Peat Harvesting
Peat Harvesting

The other source of energy and a much more globally relevant form of energy is renewable electricity. In 2012, renewable energy sources like wind, hydro, and peat helped saved the country 245 million euro.

 Breakdown of Irish Power Sources
 Breakdown of Irish Power Sources

GDP per capita:  $43,592.

11)  Austria
GDP:  $399.6 billion. Population:  8.46 million

The Republic of Austria is a German-speaking country situated east of Germany. Austria enjoys a well-developed social market economy and a high standard of living for its citizens. Labor movements are particularly strong in Austria, and historically Germany has been Austria's most significant trading partner. Some of the most important companies based in Austria are in the banking sector, like Bank Austria for example.

Bank Austria, Vienna
Bank Austria, Vienna
By Maester Aemon via Wikimedia Commons

Other economic prosperity comes mostly from Austria's highly developed industry and international tourism. Austria is the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as he was born in Vienna, Austria. 9 percent of Austria's GDP comes from tourism, placing it as the 12th ranked tourism destination in the world.

Sites of Vienna, Austria
Sites of Vienna, Austria
By Eliza0027 via Wikimedia Commons

Since Austria is highly dependent on the German economy, Austria is unfortunately vulnerable to any sudden changes in the economic performance or policies of Germany. Austrian citizens enjoy social welfare programs and a two-tier health care system which covers almost all citizens with publicly funded care. 

GDP per capita:  $44,208.

10)  Australia
GDP:  $1.521 trillion. Population:  22.68 million.

The Commonwealth of Australia include the giant island nation-continent, but for GDP measuring purposes the island of Tasmania and some other smaller islands near Indonesia will also be taken into account.

Commonwealth of Australia and External Territories
Commonwealth of Australia and External Territories
By Hoshie via Wikimedia Commons

On one hand Australia may have a global reputation for having many exotic and quite possibly deadly wildlife, but on the other Australia is renowned for its very low poverty level as well as high standard of living for its citizens. Maybe staring death in the face is doing something for Australia's economic performance. The Australian economy has experienced continuous growth, features low unemployment, contained inflation, very low public debt, and a strong and stable financial system. 

net debt

Demand for resources and energy from Asia and especially from China has grown rapidly, which has created an opportunity for resources investments and growth in commodity exports. While exporting and energy production are still strong sectors, Australia is becoming less of an economic powerhouse than it was in the past.

australian energy production

The real king of Australia’s income is the services industry, which accounts for 70 percent of the total GDP. Key components of Australia's service sector include education, financial services, and tourism.

GDP per capita:  $44,598.

9)  United States
GDP:  $15.68 trillion. Population:  313.9 million.

The United States of America needs very little in the way of an economic background. For many years the United States has gained a reputation for being an economic powerhouse and as the most powerful nation on the planet. U.S. foreign political and diplomatic relations vastly shadows the country's economic performance. U.S. companies enjoy greater flexibility than their Western European and Japanese counterparts. The U.S. economy is a market-oriented economy where private individuals and businesses make most of the economic decisions concerning economic policy. 


The U.S. has many natural resources that the country uses for its primary sector. Despite this richness of resources, the U.S. is still the largest importer of goods in the world and the U.S. suffers from a long-standing trade deficit. The explosion of technology mostly explains the gradual development of a two-tier labor market. In a two tier labor market, individuals at the bottom lack the education and the professional or technical skills of those individuals who make up the top tier.

united states department of labor

This type of labor market is at the crux of most of the income disparity facing many Americans, and the gap between the have and have-nots continues to rise. Standard of living issues plague the U.S. due to increasing class and income disparity, and poverty levels have steadily risen since 1996.

poverty rates

The U.S. enjoys the highest exportation levels when it comes to transportation equipment, and it’s only second in the export of other goods. The service industry in the United States is also a key factor in the economy especially as of late where many Americans are being forced away from manufacturing jobs as many , which add up 67.8 percent of the U.S.'s total GDP.

GDP per capita:  $49,965.

8)  Hong Kong SAR, China
GDP:  $263.3 billion. Population:  7.15 million.

The territory of Hong Kong is one of the two of the Special Administrative Regions under China’s jurisdiction, and its economy is independent from the rest of China's economy. Hong Kong is a free market economy that is highly dependent on international trade and finance. Hong Kong is one of most densely populated areas in the world and has no tariffs on imported goods and it applies excise duties on only four commodities: hard alcohol, tobacco, hydrocarbon oil, and methyl alcohol.

Location of Hong Kong
Location of Hong Kong

Hong Kong's economic strengths include a sound banking system, virtually no public debt, a strong legal system, ample foreign exchange reserves, and stringent anti-corruption efforts and close ties with mainland China. Hong Kong enjoys a thriving and privileged position as an international financial center.

Hong Kong Skyline
Hong Kong
By Roy Niekerk via Wikimedia Commons

As Hong Kong is a busy shipping port, the main source of income for the country comes from re-exporting; that is, importing goods from nearby countries like China and then exporting them to other countries.

Port of Hong Kong
Port of Hong Kong

Essentially, Hong Kong works as a distributor from mainland Asia to the rest of the world.

GDP per capita:  $51,946.

7)  Brunei Darussalam
GDP:  $16.95 billion. Population:  412,200 habitants.

Brunei Darussalam, or as it is officially known, Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace (yes, that is the official name of the country), is a sovereign state located on the island of Borneo. Brunei as a small well-to-do economy that depends on revenue from natural resource extraction but also includes a mix of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare measures, and village tradition.

Brunei Darussalam

Almost all of the nation’s GDP, up to an astonishing 90 percent, comes from the extraction of crude oil and natural gas. Brunei has the fortune of having so much of both natural resources in such vast quantities that it is the fourth largest producer of oil in South-East Asia, as well as the ninth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world.

Shell Oil's Champion West, Brunei
Shell Oil's Champion West, Brunei

Brunei enjoys one of the highest GDPs in all of Asia thanks to substantial income from overseas investment which help to supplement income necessary for domestic production. Thanks to these investments and energy resources, they can make up for the lack of basic resources like food, which they have to import. Brunei Darussalam is currently trying to fix this lack by introducing plantations that can produce more food and investing in agricultural research.

GDP per capita:  $53,348.

6)  Switzerland
GDP:  $632.2 billion. Population:  7.99 million.

The official name of Switzerland is the Swiss Confederation. This country sits smack in the middle of western and central Europe, sharing frontiers with Germany and several other countries. Switzerland's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector led primarily by financial services, and a manufacturing industry specializing in high-technology, knowledge-based production. Even though it’s a country with a small sovereign territory, it has two important cities that are considered major global economic capitals: Geneva and Zurich.

Geneva from Mount Saleve
Geneva from Mount Saleve
By Yann via Wikimedia Commons

Switzerland also is host to many important international companies, like Nestlé, Novartis, and Adecco, and it’s the 20th ranked country in terms of the exportation of goods.

Novartis Headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Novartis Headquarters
By Andrew via Wikimedia Commons

Those goods are mainly high-tech commodities or manufactured goods that require a very skilled and complicated manufacturing process. A few examples of these are the chemicals used for health and medication products, precision measuring instruments, music instruments, pharmaceuticals, and of course, watches.

Switzerland's economic and political stability, transparent and legal system free of corruption, efficient capital markets, low corporate income tax rates, and amazing infrastructure make Switzerland one of the most competitive economies on the planet.

GPD per capita:  $53,367.

5)  Singapore
GDP:  $274.7 billion. Population:  5.31 million.

The Republic of Singapore is a city state, and it is the only one in the world that is also an island. Singapore has a highly developed and successful free-market economy. It flourishes from an amazingly open and corruption-free economic environment, stable prices, and a per capita GDP that is higher than most developed countries. 

Downtown Core, Singapore
Downtown Core, Singapore
By Erwin Soo via Wikimedia Commons

Singapore’s economy depends heavily on exports, specifically consumer electronics, information technology products, pharmaceuticals, and on its growing financial services sector. Long-term economic goals for the government are based on hopes to establish a new economic growth channel focusing on raising the nation's productivity.

The main economic force that drives Singapore forward is the trade industry. Singapore, despite its small size, is ranked number 14th in the list of exporting countries. When you pair up this data with the fact that it has really low taxes, it’s understandable that it would attract plenty of foreign investment.

Global Distribution of Singaporean Exports in 2006 as a Percentage of the top market (Malaysia)
Global Distribution of Singaporean Exports
By Anwar saadat via Wikimedia Commons

Singapore, based on its amazing performance for a developing nation, has attracted major foreign investments in both pharmaceutical and medical technology production. The pharmaceutical and medical technology production industries will continue to make Singapore Asia's financial and high-tech center for many years to come. 

GDP per capita:  $61,803.

4)  Norway
GDP:  $499.7 billion. Population:  5.01 million.

The Kingdom of Norway has one of the lowest population densities in Europe, second only to Finland. Norway’s economy is a prosperous mixed economy, complete with a viable private sector, a large state sector, and a comprehensive social safety net with a heavy emphasis on welfare programs.

Mountains Along the Ulvikfjord, Western Norway
Western Norway
By Aqwis via Wikimedia Commons

Thirty percent of Norway’s workforce is hired directly by the government, which is drastically higher percentage compared to similarly structured countries. One effect of that is that the level of income inequality is kept under check, and income inequality and disparity in Norway is one of the lowest in the world.

Norwegian Fishing Boat
Fishing Boat
By Fanny Schertzer via Wikimedia Commons

Norway is empowered with extensive natural resources including petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals. Norway is highly dependent on the petroleum sector, which accounts for most of Norway's export revenue and approximately 30% of total government revenue. Norway is able to exploit its large forests for timber and mountains for valuable minerals and natural gas.

Oil Platform Statfjord A
Oil Platform

Norway has one of the most progressive plans as far as petroleum and natural gas production are concerned. In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production, Norway saves state money from the oil and gas sector that make up the world's largest sovereign investment fund (valued at $830 billion) and uses the investment returns to help finance public expenses.

GDP per capita:  $65,640.

3)  Qatar
GDP:  $171.5 billion USD. Population:  1.86 million

The State of Qatar was formerly just a small country of fishermen and pearl hunters. However, after the discovery of oil, the economy changed completely, and Qatar became a rich country with very high standards of living, which are further enhanced by the lack of income taxes. Qatar's GDP is mostly driven by changes in oil prices and by investment into the energy sector.

Traditional Dhows (boats) and West Bay Skyline, Doha, Qatar
Traditional Dhows (boats)  Qatar
By StellarD via Wikimedia Commons

Economic policy is primarily focused on developing the country's natural gas reserves that are not already associated with the government and increasing private and foreign direct investment into non-energy sectors. Still oil and gas still account for more than 50% of Qatar's GDP. The unemployment in Qatar is the lowest in the world, with only 0.1 percent unemployed. That’s one out of every thousand people who are of working age. Interestingly though, 94 percent of Qatar’s workforce is formed by immigrants.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner
Qatar Airways Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner
By Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

Still, as many as 14 percent of the native households have a millionaire-level income (yes in U.S. dollars). All these impressive numbers and opulence are all thanks to the massive exportation of oil and natural gas, and Qatar is the leading country in the exporting of liquid natural gas.

GDP per capita:  $83,460.

2)  Macau SAR, China
GDP:  $43.58 billion. Population:  556,800.

Macau is the other Special Administrative Region of China, with Hong Kong being the other one mentioned in this list. Since opening its locally administered casino industry to foreign rivals in 2001, Macau has since attracted tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment and has transformed the territory into one of the world's largest gaming centers.

Location of Macau SAR, China
Location of Macau SAR, China
By Sémhur via Wikimedia Commons

Much of Macau's success is thanks to China's decision to relax standing travel restrictions on Chinese nationals who may hope to visit Macau. Macau's gaming-related taxes made up more than 85% of total government revenue. 

Macau Skyline
Macau Skyline
By Mimihitam via Wikimedia Commons

Macau’s manufacturing sector has drastically slowed greatly since the termination of the Multi-Fiber Agreement in 2005 that was seen as the beginning of the end of its textile industry. Since 2013, Macau's economy is becoming more and more dependent on its dominating gaming industry.

The Venetian (not Las Vegas) Macau
The Venetian (not Las Vegas) Macau
By [2] via Wikimedia Commons

Challenges facing Macau's gaming industry include money-laundering for mainland China and a need for further economic diversification away from the country's general dependence on gaming revenues. 

GDP per capita:  $87,765.

1)  Luxembourg
GDP:  $57.12 billion. Population:  531,400.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a very small country squished between Germany and Belgium. Luxembourg enjoys a small, stable, and very high-income economy. Luxembourg benefits from its proximity to France, Germany, and Belgium. Luxembourg has historically featured solid growth, low inflation, and low unemployment. The country's industrial sector, which was first dominated by steel production, has grown to diversify into chemical, rubber, automobile components, and many other manufactured products.

Luxembourg City
Luxembourg City
By Benh via Wikimedia Commons

In the service industry department, Luxembourg works with financial services and banking, which recently has been taking a more important role. Public debt in Luxembourg, even with its large dependence on banking during a recession, has remained among the lowest in the region.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Luxembourg
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Luxembourg

Also even in the face of the global financial crisis and recovery, Luxembourg retained the highest current account surplus as a share of GDP in the euro zone, owing much of their success to their strong financial services sector.

GDP per capita:  $91,388.

Though these numbers may change a little from year to year, the fluctuations of rank as far as GDP per capita are always between the same couple of countries. Smaller countries with a high focus on services, banking, and communications easily stay on the top, along with countries with large energy resources. The presence of a wealth of natural resources can make or break a nation's economy. Natural resources can both boost domestic manufacturing efforts and be a resource for exportation - both of which will increase a country's GDP. Countries with low taxes and a robust welfare system also have a high standard of living, and their citizens can look forward to years and years of future economic prosperity. 





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