Which are the world’s most prosperous nations?

Norway has been crowned the most prosperous country in the world for the fifth year running.

But the U.S. has dropped out of the Legatum Prosperity Index’s top ten for the first time to 12th position.

According to the annual survey, which benchmarks 142 countries worldwide, the UK has continued to lag, retaining its place 13th in the list.

Measuring prosperity

Most would agree prosperity is not just about money but about quality of life and well-being. The Legatum Index reckons it has found a way of measuring this information numerically

The index is based on eight categories: economy, education, entrepreneurship & opportunity, governance, health, personal freedom, safety & security and social capital. All of these sub-indexes are equally weighted and used to come to a final overall score for a country

The data the report uses is gathered from a range of sources like the Gallup polling organisation and the World Bank which allows Legatum to rank performance using these key ingredients to prosperity

The most prosperous nations

1 Norway
2 Denmark
3 Sweden
4 Australia
5 New Zealand
6 Canada
7 Finland
8 Netherlands
9 Switzerland


Overall prosperity in Europe has increased, with seven European nations ranking in the global top ten for overall prosperity

Western Europe fared well in the index with most countries ranking in the top 30, apart from Greece and Italy which ranked 49th and 33rd respectively

The UK missed out on a top ten spot but kept up its position as 13th in the world review, a rank it has held since 2009

Elsewhere, Germany came just behind at 14th, France 21st and Spain 23rd

Central European countries placed near the middle of the rankings, apart from the Czech Republic and Slovenia who both got a top 30 spot

However, more than two thirds (24 out of 33) of European countries have seen a decline in their Economy score since 2009 – undoubtedly as a result of on-going economic difficulty in the region. The biggest declines in the Economy sub-index have been experienced by Greece, Denmark, Iceland, and Spain

But some were able to rise despite the economic challenges of the year. Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Moldova all scored better in this year’s index for economy

Greece experienced the largest decline in overall prosperity in 2012, falling 10 places since 2009 and now standing in 49th position

Four countries stood out for their overall improvements in overall prosperity; Slovakia, Moldova, Slovenia and Estonia. The report notes how these Eastern European countries are on the rise while some western countries slow down

Big shocks

The United States fell out of the top ten for the first time, finishing in 12th

Even though the US improved on education, it performed badly in five of the eight other sub-indexes

The biggest loss was of eight points in the entrepreneurship & opportunity category, which the report explains is driven by US citizens no longer believing hard work will get them ahead. So much for the American Dream

Economic high-fliers

The report identifies eastern countries as ranking well in the economy sub-index. Six of the top fifteen in this category are in Asia

Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan all come top ten when you look at the economy scores in isolation. China, Japan and Malaysia follow closely behind

Climbing fast

A new generation of Asian ‘Tiger Cub’ countries has emerged, with Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia all performing well

They’re edging closer to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, which all sit in the top 25 countries

The report cites Indonesia as experiencing the biggest jump in prosperity globally since 2009 moving 26 places to 63rd

Big drops

Syria has dropped 30 positions in the sub-section category of social capital, which measures things like social cohesion and tolerance, to place 131st while Tunisia has dropped 32 to 122nd

Elsewhere the US in the economy sub-index ranking has dropped to 20th this year, a total drop of seven places since 2009. The US now lies in twentieth position, trailing Asia’s leading economies and in the shadow of Germany which ranked 6th

The least prosperous nations

These are the countries that ranked bottom in the report

133 Ethipoia
134 Yemen
135 Zimbabwe
136 Togo
137 Burundi
138 Haiti
139 Chad
140 Afghanistan
141 Congo (DR)
142 Central African Republic

Sub-Saharan Africa remains a bleak part of the world with 24 out of 30 of the lowest ranking countries located in this area

The nations that did the best in this part of the world were Botswana who ranked 70th followed by South Africa 74th and Namibia 83rd


The Legatum reports notes that the key drivers of prosperity in the top 50 countries were governance and entrepreneurship. But in developing countries health and education played a more important role

Strong social capital in areas of social cohesion (like tolerance of immigrant populations) and engagement (like volunteering) was related to high levels of satisfaction and in turn economic capital

Another trend that surfaced in the report was that 27 out of the top 30 countries were democratic nations

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