So, which are the best countries in the world?

Best…in what sense? Across what parameters? The question sounds too naive, too simplistic.

But it may not be. Going by data—the only thing we swear by—indeed, some countries may be better than rest of us in almost all areas, across all parameters.

DataJourno decided to carefully compare countries across measurable parameters in different aspects of life, society and economy. But instead of getting into individual data points, we decided to bank on already established systems that exist—in the form of global rankings and ratings.

By doing this,

  1. we avoided trying to reinvent the wheel, with our limited knowledge in many of those areas
  2. we avoided getting caught in standardization issues
  3. we short-circuited on time
  4. we banked on the credibility and quality of these ratings, which have only become better over the years.

After going through several such lists, we zeroed in on six such global rankings that are most credible and respected.They measure competitiveness, economic freedom, natural environment, human development, integrity of people, and quality of life. Of course, we went by their latest ranking, without trying to standardize on year. That would have made us take older rankings in many cases just because one list is older.

These lists are

  • Global Competitiveness Ranking by World Economic Forum 2013-14
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index Rankings 2012
  • Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2013
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit Where To Be Born (earlier called Quality of Life) Index 2013
  • The Heritage Foundation-Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom 2014
  • Yale University Environment Performance Index 2014

The last two are comparatively new  and probably not as established as the other other four. But we still decided to include them as both these (economic freedom and environment) are important parameters and they are clearly the best in class, when it comes to those categories.

We decided to look at the top 20 ranking countries in each of those lists.

And this is what we found.

  • There are just 38 countries in this list of lists, which could potentially have 120 countries, if there was no overlap. A list of 60-80 would have meant fairly good overlap. A list of just 38 means a very high overlap.
  • If you remove all such countries that feature among top 20 in just one of the lists, there are 24 countries that feature in two or more lists.
  • There are as many as 12 countries that feature in 5 or 6 lists. Out of which, five countries (Singapore, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany) feature in all the lists.

So, why can’t we call these five (or even for that matter, these 12), the world’s best countries? 

Here is a tabular summary of the country ranking.

Countries

In short, some countries are better than others in almost all respects.

But the bigger conclusion is: the parameters probably have a stronger correlation than we think they have.

Based on this, we create a composite ranking, giving equal weightage to all parameters. We decided to look at just the rankings and not the scores, as scores are not easily comparable, the scales being different.

Based on their ranks in all the lists, this is how the overall top 20 looks like.

  1. Singapore (features in all the 6 lists)
  2. Australia (features in 5 of the 6 lists)
  3. Switzerland (features in 5 of the 6 lists)
  4. Sweden (features in all the 6 lists)
  5. Netherlands (features in all the 6 lists)
  6. Norway (features in 5 of the 6 lists)
  7. Denmark (features in all the 6 lists)
  8. Germany (features in all the 6 lists)
  9. Hong Kong (features in 5 of the 6 lists)
  10. New Zealand (features in 5 of the 6 lists)
  11. Finland (features in 5 of the 6 lists)
  12. United States (features in 5 of the 6 lists)
  13. Canada (features in 4 of the 6 lists)
  14. Ireland (features in 4 of the 6 lists)
  15. United Kingdom (features in 4 of the 6 lists)
  16. Luxembourg (features in 3 of the 6 lists)
  17. Austria (features in 4 of the 6 lists)
  18. Japan (features in 3 of the 6 lists)
  19. Belgium (features in 4 of the 6 lists) & Iceland (features in 3 of the 6 lists)

As one can see, though richer countries do better, it is not necessarily smaller versus bigger. The US, Germany, Japan, UK, Canada and Australia feature in the list as do Luxembourg, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Here is a visual representation of how balanced the top countries look, across different parameters.

Singapore

AustraliaSwitzerland

The more regular a graph looks, the more balanced is the country across parameters.

 

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