The best countries in the world – and where South Africa fits in

Switzerland held its position as the number one country in the world, according to the 2022 Best Countries report, a rankings and analysis project by US News & World Report, Y&R’s BAV Group and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The report ranks 85 countries across a range of criteria, from economic influence, open for business, and quality of life – capturing how nations are perceived on a global scale.

Switzerland ranked among the top in quality of life, open for business, green living, and starting a career.

Quality of life measures a country’s broad access to food, housing, quality education, health care and employment, while open for business determines how business-friendly a nation is based on the balance between stability and expense.

Starting a career measures a country’s labour market using seven attributes: a good job market, economically stable, entrepreneurial, income equality, innovation, living, and progressiveness.

Switzerland is followed by Germany, which moved up one spot to No. 2, replacing Canada, which fell to No. 3 as countries with more progressive social and environmental policies dominate the overall rankings.

Nordic nations – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland – rank in the top 15 overall. Sweden is the No. 1 country for quality of life and social purpose. Social purpose ranks a nation’s human rights, the general environment, and religious freedom.

Denmark takes the top spot for education and raising children, while Finland ranks at the top for transparency – which ranks nations in five categories: transparent business practices, transparent government practices, well-distributed political power, trustworthiness and corruption.

Canada shifted one spot to No. 3 from No.2 in 2021. However, it maintained its position in the top three – ranking No.1 in the world for starting a career.

The US gained two spots to rank No.4 from No.6 in 2021. It gained in two important categories – ranking No.1 in power, which looks at a country’s ability to shape global economic patterns, and No.2 for entrepreneurship, which evaluates a nation’s ability to spread prosperity to citizens.

Sweden ranks at No.5, followed by Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), France, and Denmark at No.10.

Japan scored high marks in entrepreneurship and cultural influence, which measures a country’s art, fashion, entertainment, and easy living.

Australia scored 3rd in headquartering a corporation – whether a major corporation decides to call a country home – and this depends on trade and tax policies and its contribution to the global economy.

The UK scored high in study abroad – which accounted for the quality of universities and whether the country is culturally accessible, fun and has many cultural attractions. It also ranked high in power.

France ranked No.2 in cultural influence and No.4 in heritage – which quantifies a nation’s distinctive traditions by assessing five attributes: culturally accessible, has a rich history, has great food, many cultural attractions and many geographical attractions.

The 2022 Best Countries ranking methodology relies on data gathered from a proprietary survey of more than 21,000 business leaders, informed elites and general citizens.

South Africa is ranked 42nd out of 85 countries (41 in 2021) – scoring poorly for quality of life, power, and social purpose.

However, South Africa’s strengths were noted in heritage, open for business, movers and adventure. Movers measured a country’s preparedness to weather economic challenges, ranking nations based on: difference, distinctiveness, dynamics and uniqueness.

Adventure measures a country’s level of adventure – based on an equally weighted average of scores from six attributes related to adventure within a country: friendly, fun, good for tourism, pleasant, climate, scenic and sexy.