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Ranked: The World’s Most Competitive Countries (2019-2023)

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most competitive countries for businesses

Ranking the Most Competitive Countries Around the World

Just as a well-made ship needs fair weather for a smooth voyage, businesses need a supportive ecosystem to start and stay successful.

Rankings for the most competitive countries attempt to quantify this support directly, seeing which economies have the best frameworks for business to thrive. Examining how the rankings change over time can also tell us a lot about how countries are progressing relative to others.

In the above graphic, Julie Peasley uses the World Competitiveness Ranking report by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) to chart the top 20 most competitive countries between 2019 and 2023.

How is Business Competitiveness Measured?

IMD examines countries on the basis of four metrics across multiple sub-factors:

  • Economic performance:
    Domestic economy, international trade, international investment, employment, prices
  • Government efficiency:
    Public finance, tax policy, institutional framework, business legislation, societal framework
  • Business efficiency:
    Productivity & efficiency, labor market, finance, management practices, attitudes & values
  • Infrastructure:
    Basic infrastructure, technological infrastructure, scientific infrastructure, health & environment, education

These metrics are scored on a mix of hard statistics, surveys from partner institutes, and supplementary data.

Which Countries are the Best and Worst for Business?

Denmark holds on to the top spot as the most business-friendly country in 2023, after it ranked number one for the first time in 2022. The Scandinavian country has been a perennial top 10 performer since 2018 but really began its ascent to the summit in the last four years.

The country excels in the categories of business efficiency, government efficiency, and infrastructure metrics, despite comparatively average economic performance next to some of its geographic peers.

Rank (2023)Country2019202020212022
1๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark8231
2๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland7121311
3๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland4312
4๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore1153
5๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands6446
6๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan161187
7๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Hong Kong2575
8๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden9624
9๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ U.S.3101010
10๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช UAE59912
11๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland1513118
12๐Ÿ‡ถ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Qatar10141718
13๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium27252421
14๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway11769
15๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada1381414
16๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ Iceland20212116
17๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Saudi Arabia26243224
18๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czech Republic33333426
19๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia18182219
20๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ Luxembourg12151213
21๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China14201617
22๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany17171515
23๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel24262725
24๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria19161920
25๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ญ BahrainN/AN/AN/A30
26๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช Estonia35282622
27๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ Malaysia22272532
28๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea28232327
29๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง UK23191823
30๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ Thailand25292833
31๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ New Zealand21222031
32๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania29313029
33๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France31322928
34๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Indonesia32403744
35๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan30343134
36๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain36363936
37๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Kazakhstan34423543
38๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ผ KuwaitN/AN/AN/AN/A
39๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น Portugal39373642
40๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India43434337
41๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy44444141
42๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Slovenia37354038
43๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland38394750
44๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile42384445
45๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus41303340
46๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ Hungary47474239
47๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Tรผrkiye51465152
48๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania49514851
49๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece58494647
50๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท Croatia60605946
51๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป Latvia40413835
52๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ Philippines46455248
53๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Slovak Republic53575049
54๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ด Jordan57584956
55๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช Peru55525854
56๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mexico50535555
57๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ Bulgaria48485353
58๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด Colombia52545657
59๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ผ BotswanaN/AN/A6158
60๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil59565759
61๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ South Africa56596260
62๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ณ Mongolia62616061
63๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท Argentina61626362
64๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ช Venezuela63636463

Close behind in second place is Ireland, jumping five spots since 2019. The countryโ€™s strong economic performance helped it break into the upper echelon after bouncing around the top-15 rankings in the last few years.

Ranked third is Switzerland which has been in the top five since 2018, and reached first place in 2021. While the country scores well on several key indicators, it loses points on subfactors like the lack of business development and IPO offerings.

Singapore, which also was previously ranked as the most competitive country in 2019 and 2020, secured fourth place in 2023. In contrast to Denmark and Switzerland, the Asian financial heavyweight scores well on economic performance but loses ground on government efficiency.

At the bottom of the list, Venezuela, Argentina, and Mongolia face significant challenges in business competitiveness in 2023. These countries suffer from a trifecta of poor economic performance, low business and government efficiency, and substandard infrastructure, hindering business growth and development. Macro developments also play a key factor in their fortunes. For example, Mongolia has suffered in the aftermath of sanctions on Russia, a key trade partner.

Changing Rankings for the Most Competitive Countries

Though some countries have placed consistently in the rankings of the most competitive countries, there are also countries that have seen more noteworthy fluctuations.

China and Germany were both in the top 20 rankings pretty consistently until 2022, but both fell just short of that benchmark in the 2023 rankings.

And the U.S. is still in the top 10 but has dropped six spots compared to other economies in the last five years. The countryโ€™s economic might is unimpeachable, but rankings slipped in the business landscape and government efficiency metrics.

Here are the five-year changes in rankings for all countries scored in the IMD report, sorted from biggest increase to largest decrease:

CountryChange (2019-2023)Rank (2023)
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czech Republic+1518
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium+1413
๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan+106
๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท Croatia+1050
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Saudi Arabia+917
๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช Estonia+926
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece+949
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark+71
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland+52
๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland+411
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ Iceland+416
๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Tรผrkiye447
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India340
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy341
๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ด Jordan354
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland+13
๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands+15
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden+18
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel+123
๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ Hungary+146
๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania+148
๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea028
๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain036
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น Portugal039
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Slovak Republic053
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช Peru055
๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ณ Mongolia062
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia-119
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil-160
๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ช Venezuela-164
๐Ÿ‡ถ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Qatar-212
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada-215
๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France-233
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Indonesia-234
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile-244
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท Argentina-263
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore-34
๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway-314
๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania-332
๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Kazakhstan-337
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus-445
๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Hong Kong-57
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช UAE-510
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany-522
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria-524
๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ Malaysia-527
๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ Thailand-530
๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan-535
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Slovenia-542
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland-543
๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ South Africa-561
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ U.S.-69
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง UK-629
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ Philippines-652
๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mexico-656
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด Colombia-658
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China-721
๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ Luxembourg-820
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ Bulgaria-957
๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ New Zealand-1031
๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป Latvia-1151
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ญ BahrainN/A25
๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ผ KuwaitN/A38
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ผ BotswanaN/A59

The Czech Republic and Belgium have made huge strides in improving their business environments since 2019, moving up 15 and 14 spots in the rankings over the last half a decade, respectively.

Saudi Arabia has also been making steady gains thanks to a series of pro-business reforms in recent years. Together with the Czech Republic, 2023 marked the first year both countries cracked the top 20 list for the most competitive countries.

On the other hand, Latvia and New Zealand have slipped the most in competitiveness, dropping 11 and 10 spots respectively. Latvia and its Baltic neighbors are dealing with a tough geopolitical environment and risk of a recession with instability in the region, while New Zealand was noted as dealing with both a brain drain and a lack of resiliency to climate change.

An Examination of Business Competitiveness

Business competitiveness is one of many measurements for country performance, including gross domestic product (GDP), income, livability, and even happiness rankings.

And as with other measurements, it is important to consider the nuances and disparities among countries when applying a one-size-fits-all ranking system.

For instance, the most populous countries rank comparatively poorer. The U.S. ranks #2 when only considering countries with a population greater than 20 million, and China is the most competitive country with a GDP per capita of less than $20,000.

And while criticisms about the subjectivity of these rankings may be valid, looking at these kinds of breakdowns can bring unique insights to broad sociological questions, and be used as a tool to help policymakers.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: The International Institute for Management Developmentโ€™s World Competitiveness Booklet 2023.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Charted: What are Retail Investors Interested in Buying in 2023?

What key themes and strategies are retail investors looking at for the rest of 2023? Preview: AI is a popular choice.

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A cropped bar chart showing the various options retail investors picked as part of their strategy for the second half of 2023.

Charted: Retail Investorsโ€™ Top Picks for 2023

U.S. retail investors, enticed by a brief pause in the interest rate cycle, came roaring back in the early summer. But what are their investment priorities for the second half of 2023?

We visualized the data from Publicโ€™s 2023 Retail Investor Report, which surveyed 1,005 retail investors on their platform, asking โ€œwhich investment strategy or themes are you interested in as part of your overall investment strategy?โ€

Survey respondents ticked all the options that applied to them, thus their response percentages do not sum to 100%.

Where Are Retail Investors Putting Their Money?

By far the most popular strategy for retail investors is dividend investing with 50% of the respondents selecting it as something theyโ€™re interested in.

Dividends can help supplement incomes and come with tax benefits (especially for lower income investors or if the dividend is paid out into a tax-deferred account), and can be a popular choice during more inflationary times.

Investment StrategyPercent of Respondents
Dividend Investing50%
Artificial Intelligence36%
Total Stock Market Index36%
Renewable Energy33%
Big Tech31%
Treasuries (T-Bills)31%
Electric Vehicles 27%
Large Cap26%
Small Cap24%
Emerging Markets23%
Real Estate23%
Gold & Precious Metals23%
Mid Cap19%
Inflation Protection13%
Commodities12%

Meanwhile, the hype around AI hasnโ€™t faded, with 36% of the respondents saying theyโ€™d be interested in investing in the themeโ€”including juggernaut chipmaker Nvidia. This is tied for second place with Total Stock Market Index investing.

Treasury Bills (30%) represent the safety anchoring of the portfolio but the ongoing climate crisis is also on investorsโ€™ minds with Renewable Energy (33%) and EVs (27%) scoring fairly high on the interest list.

Commodities and Inflation-Protection stocks on the other hand have fallen out of favor.

Come on Barbie, Letโ€™s Go Party…

Another interesting takeaway pulled from the survey is how conversations about prevailing companiesโ€”or the buzz around themโ€”are influencing trades. The platform found that public investors in Mattel increased 6.6 times after the success of the โ€˜Barbieโ€™ movie.

Bud Light also saw a 1.5x increase in retail investors, despite receiving negative attention from their fans after the company did a beer promotion campaign with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Given the origin story of a large chunk of American retail investors revolves around GameStop and AMC, these insights arenโ€™t new, but they do reveal a persisting trend.

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