Mapped: The World's Largest Economies, Sized by GDP (1970-2020)
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Mapped: The World’s Largest Economies, Sized by GDP (1970-2020)

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Visualizing The World’s Largest Economies (1970-2020)

Global GDP has grown massively over the last 50 years, but not all countries experienced this economic growth equally.

In 1970, the world’s nominal GDP was just $3.4 trillion. Fast forward a few decades and it had reached $85.3 trillion by 2020. And thanks to shifting dynamics, such as industrialization and the rise and fall of political regimes, the world’s largest economies driving this global growth have changed over time.

This slideshow using graphics from Ruben Berge Mathisen show the distribution of global GDP among countries in 1970, 1995, and 2020.

Methodology

Using data from the United Nations, Mathisen collected nominal GDP in U.S. dollars for each country. He then determined each country’s GDP as a share of global GDP and sized each graphic’s bubbles accordingly.

The bubbles were placed according to country latitude and longitude coordinates, but Mathisen programmed the bubbles so that they wouldn’t overlap with each other. For this reason, some countries are slightly displaced from their exact locations on a map.

1970: USSR as a Major Player

In 1970, the U.S. accounted for the largest share of global GDP, making up nearly one-third of the world economy. The table below shows the top 10 economies in 1970.

RankCountryGDP (1970)Share of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 United States$1.1T31.4 %
#2☭ USSR$433B12.7 %
#3🇩🇪 Germany$216B6.3 %
#4🇯🇵 Japan$213B6.2 %
#5🇫🇷 France$148B4.3 %
#6🇬🇧 UK$131B3.8 %
#7🇮🇹 Italy$113B3.3 %
#8🇨🇳 China$93B2.7 %
#9🇨🇦 Canada$89B2.6 %
#10🇮🇳 India$62B1.8 %

Then a global superpower, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) came in second place on the list of the world’s largest economies.

In the years leading up to 1970, the USSR had seen impressive GDP growth largely due to adopting Western technologies that increased productivity. However, the USSR’s economy began to stagnate in the ‘70s, and eventually collapsed in 1991.

On the other side, Germany (including both West and East Germany) was the third-largest economy in 1970 after rising from economic ruin following World War II. West Germany’s “Economic Miracle” is largely credited to the introduction of a new currency to replace the Riechsmark, large tax cuts brought in to spur investment, and the removal of price controls.

1995: Japan Begins to Slow Down

By 1995, the U.S. still held the top spot on the world’s largest economies list, but the country’s share of global GDP had shrunk.

RankCountry/AreaGDP (1995)Share of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 United States$7.6T24.4 %
#2🇯🇵 Japan$5.5T17.7 %
#3🇩🇪 Germany$2.6T8.3 %
#4🇫🇷 France$1.6T5.1 %
#5🇬🇧 UK$1.3T4.3 %
#6🇮🇹 Italy$1.2T3.8 %
#7🇧🇷 Brazil$778B2.5 %
#8🇨🇳 China$734B2.4 %
#9🇪🇸 Spain$615B2.0 %
#10🇨🇦 Canada$606B1.9 %

Meanwhile, Japan had leapfrogged into second place and nearly tripled its share of the global economy compared to 1970. A number of factors played into Japan’s economic success:

  • Large business groups known as keiretsu used their connections to undercut rivals
  • Fierce competition between companies encouraged innovation
  • Tax breaks and cheap credit stimulated investment
  • The well-educated workforce was willing to work extremely long hours

But around 1990, the country’s economy had actually begun to slow down. Japan’s decreasing labor force participation rate and diminishing returns from higher education both could have played a role.

2020: The World’s Largest Economies Shift Again

In 2020, the United States continued to hold onto the number one spot among the world’s largest economies. However, Japan’s slowdown created a rare opportunity for a new powerhouse to emerge: China.

RankCountry/AreaGDP (2020)Share of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 United States$20.9T24.5 %
#2🇨🇳 China$14.7T17.3 %
#3🇯🇵 Japan$5.1T5.9 %
#4🇩🇪 Germany$3.8T4.5 %
#5🇬🇧 UK$2.8T3.2 %
#6🇮🇳 India$2.7T3.1 %
#7🇫🇷 France$2.6T3.1 %
#8🇮🇹 Italy$1.9T2.2 %
#9🇨🇦 Canada$1.6T1.9 %
#10🇰🇷 South Korea$1.6T1.9 %

China’s economy saw incredible growth following economic reforms in 1978. The reforms encouraged the formation of private businesses, liberalized foreign trade and investment, relaxed state control over some prices, and invested in industrial production and the education of its workforce. With profit incentives introduced to private businesses, productivity increased.

China was also positioned as a cheap manufacturing hub for multinational corporations. Since rising into contention, the country has become the world’s largest exporter.

India held the title of the sixth largest economy in 2020. Similar to China, the country’s growth came from relaxed economic restrictions, and it has seen particularly strong growth within the service sector, including telecommunications, IT, and software.

With dynamics shifting, which countries will be on the leaderboard in another 25 years?

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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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Visualizing Major Layoffs At U.S. Corporations

This infographic highlights the accelerating pace of layoffs so far in 2022, as businesses cut costs ahead of a potential recession.

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Visualizing Major Layoffs at U.S. Corporations

Hiring freezes and layoffs are becoming more common in 2022, as U.S. businesses look to slash costs ahead of a possible recession.

Understandably, this has a lot of people worried. In June 2022, Insight Global found that 78% of American workers fear they will lose their job in the next recession. Additionally, 56% said they aren’t financially prepared, and 54% said they would take a pay cut to avoid being laid off.

In this infographic, we’ve visualized major layoffs announced in 2022 by publicly-traded U.S. corporations.

Note: Due to gaps in reporting, as well as the very large number of U.S. corporations, this list may not be comprehensive.

An Emerging Trend

Layoffs have surged considerably since April of this year. See the table below for high-profile instances of mass layoffs.

CompanyIndustryLayoffs (#)Month
PelotonConsumer Discretionary2,800February
FunkoConsumer Discretionary258April
RobinhoodFinancial Services~400April
Nektar TherapeuticsBiotechnology500April
CarvanaAutomotive2,500May
DomaFinancial Services310May
JP Morgan Chase & Co.Financial Services~500June
TeslaAutomotive200June
CoinbaseFinancial Services1,100June
NetflixTechnology300June
CVS HealthPharmaceutical208June
StartTekTechnology472June
FordAutomotive8,000July
RivianAutomotive840July
PelotonConsumer Discretionary2,000July
LoanDepotFinancial Services2,000July
InvitaeBiotechnology1,000July
LyftTechnology60July
MetaTechnology350July
TwitterTechnology<30July
VimeoTechnology72July
RobinhoodFinancial Services~795August

Here’s a brief rundown of these layoffs, sorted by industry.

Automotive

Ford has announced the biggest round of layoffs this year, totalling roughly 8,000 salaried employees. Many of these jobs are in Ford’s legacy combustion engine business. According to CEO Jim Farley, these cuts are necessary to fund the company’s transition to EVs.

We absolutely have too many people in some places, no doubt about it.
– Jim Farley, CEO, Ford

Speaking of EVs, Rivian laid off 840 employees in July, amounting to 6% of its total workforce. The EV startup pointed to inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing commodity prices as factors. The firm’s more established competitor, Tesla, cut 200 jobs from its autopilot division in the month prior.

Last but not least is online used car retailer, Carvana, which cut 2,500 jobs in May. The company experienced rapid growth during the pandemic, but has since fallen out of grace. Year-to-date, the company’s shares are down more than 80%.

Financial Services

Fearing an impending recession, Coinbase has shed 1,100 employees, or 18% of its total workforce. Interestingly, Coinbase does not have a physical headquarters, meaning the entire company operates remotely.

A recession could lead to another crypto winter, and could last for an extended period. In past crypto winters, trading revenue declined significantly.
Brian Armstrong, CEO, Coinbase

Around the same time, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced it would fire hundreds of home-lending employees. While an exact number isn’t available, we’ve estimated this to be around 500 jobs, based on the original Bloomberg article. Wells Fargo, another major U.S. bank, has also cut 197 jobs from its home mortgage division.

The primary reason for these cuts is rising mortgage rates, which are negatively impacting the demand for homes.

Technology

Within tech, Meta and Twitter are two of the most high profile companies to begin making layoffs. In Meta’s case, 350 custodial staff have been let go due to reduced usage of the company’s offices.

Many more cuts are expected, however, as Facebook recently reported its first revenue decline in 10 years. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear he expects the company to do more with fewer resources, and managers have been encouraged to report “low performers” for “failing the company”.

Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.
– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Meta

Also in July, Twitter laid off 30% of its talent acquisition team. An exact number was not available, but the team was estimated to have less than 100 employees. The company has also enacted a hiring freeze as it stumbles through a botched acquisition by Elon Musk.

More Layoffs to Come…

Layoffs are expected to continue throughout the rest of this year, as metrics like consumer sentiment enter a decline. Rising interest rates, which make it more expensive for businesses to borrow money, are also having a negative impact on growth.

In fact just a few days ago, trading platform Robinhood announced it was letting go 23% of its staff. After accounting for its previous layoffs in April (9% of the workforce), it’s fair to estimate that this latest round will impact nearly 800 people.

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3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage

Bad weather, the war in Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis. Here are three factors you should know.

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3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage

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Bad weather, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis.

This infographic will help you understand the problem by highlighting three key factors behind the mounting food crisis.

#1: The Fertilizer Shortage

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the war has disrupted shipments of fertilizer, an essential source of nutrients for crops.

Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizer and ranks second in phosphorus and potassium fertilizer exports. Belarus, a Russian ally also contending with Western sanctions, is another major fertilizer producer. In addition, both countries collectively account for over 40% of global exports of the crop nutrient potash.

Here are the top 20 fertilizer exporters globally:

RankCountryExports Value (Billions in USD)
#1🇷🇺 Russia$12.5
#2🇨🇳 China $10.9
#3🇨🇦 Canada$6.6
#4🇲🇦 Morocco$5.7
#5🇺🇸 United States$4.1
#6🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia $3.6
#7🇳🇱 Netherlands$2.9
#8🇧🇪 Belgium$2.6
#9🇴🇲 Oman$2.6
#10🇶🇦 Qatar$2.2
#11🇩🇪 Germany$1.5
#12🇮🇱I srael$1.5
#13🇪🇬 Egypt$1.5
#14🇱🇹 Lithuania$1.4
#15🇩🇿 Algeria$1.4
#16🇪🇸 Spain$1.3
#17🇯🇴 Jordan$1.3
#18🇵🇱 Poland$1.2
#19🇲🇾 Malaysia$1.0
#20🇳🇬 Nigeria$1.0

The main destination of fertilizer exports from Russia are large economies like India, Brazil, China, and the United States.

However, many developing countries—including Mongolia, Honduras, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, and Guatemala—rely on Russia for at least one-fifth of their fertilizer imports.

Furthermore, the war intensified trends that were already disrupting supply, such as increased hoarding by major producing nations like China and sharp jumps in the price of natural gas, a key feedstock for fertilizer production.

#2: Global Grain Exports

The blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet, along with Western sanctions against Russia, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks, causing inflation in food and energy prices around the world.

This is largely because Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly one-third of the global wheat supply. Wheat is one of the most-used crops in the world annually, used to make a variety of food products like bread and pasta. Additionally, Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil.

ProducerGrain Exports in Million Tons (MT)
🇺🇸 United States93MT
🇷🇺 Russia & 🇺🇦 Ukraine87MT
🇦🇷 Argentina 56MT
🇪🇺 EU50MT
🇧🇷 Brazil44MT
Other87MT

As a result of the blockade, Ukraine’s exports of cereals and oilseed dropped from six million tonnes to two million tonnes per month. After two months of negotiations, the two countries signed a deal to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that the international food crisis can be eased.

#3: Recent Food Shortages

Besides the war in Ukraine, factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change resulted in nearly one billion people going hungry last year, according to United Nations.

France’s wine industry saw its smallest harvest since 1957 in 2021, with an estimated loss of $2 billion in sales due to increasingly higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions.

Heat, drought, and floods also decimated crops in Latin America, North America, and India in recent months. Between April 2020 and December 2021, coffee prices increased 70% after droughts and frost destroyed crops in Brazil.

In the face of multiple crises, the World Bank recently announced financial support of up to $30 billion to existing and new projects in areas such as agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.

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