Top 5 trends from the Legatum Prosperity Index

Each year the private investment firm Legatum produces an annual ranking of 142 countries around the world, taking into account wealth, economic growth, quality of life, education and health


What can be expected from the 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index is a handful of countries located in Northern Europe consistently dominating the top places of the overall rankings, while countries whose names have become synonymous with political instability tend to languish near the bottom.

However, the rankings, being both comprehensive and annually produced, allow for some interesting trends and developments to be identified. Here are five of the most interesting findings from the 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index, released in January 2016.

Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Iceland and Ireland are the world’s five most tolerant countries when it comes to immigration

1. Norsemen head south
Scandinavian countries are used to dominating international rankings, be it for economic prosperity, political stability, education or well being. When it comes to the Legatum Prosperity Index, they remain high: Norway has topped the rankings for the past seven years with no exception this year, while Denmark came up third, followed by Sweden in fifth places and Finland in ninth, while Iceland sat at a 12.

However, three out of the five countries that make up Scandinavia have seen their places within the economy subsection of the index decline since 2009. Much of this is a result of the failure of these nations to deal with chronic unemployment. Sweden has an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, Denmark 6.3 percent, while Finland has a rate of 9.4 percent.

Although other countries have seen their unemployment rates decline having previously risen from the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis, Nordic rates have persisted, failing to reach pre-crisis levels.

2. Fifty-year landmark
Last year was a landmark year for Singapore. The small island city-state marked 50 years of being an independent nation, following its messy divorce from a union with its neighbour Malaysia in 1965. The man who weathered the new nation through this split, Lee Kwan Yew also died in 2015. Both events prompted much reflection upon the course that Singapore has travelled over these 50 years of nationhood, particularly its story of economic success, turning from a small and insignificant fishing island, to a modern economic powerhouse and world financial centre.

It is fitting then, that the country in 2015 achieved first place in the economy subsection of the Legatum index. The country now has a per capita income of $240,750 per worker, while nearly half of its manufactured exports are classified as ‘high-tech’, the third highest proportion in the world.

3. UK on the up
Since 2013, the United Kingdom has seen dramatic economic improvement. According to Sian Hansen, the Executive Director of the Legatum Institute, in the forward of the index, “since 2013, the UK has improved the most economically of any major EU economy. This is partly because full time employment amongst the poorest has risen from being the second lowest of any major developed economy in 2009, to the highest of any major economy in the EU.”

Linked to this – either stemming from, or being the cause of – the UK is an increasing world-leader in entrepreneurship. In this years’ index, the UK ranked 6th on the Entrepreneurship & Opportunity subsection and improvement up from 8th place last year.

Further, the country has seen cultural attitudes towards entrepreneurialism increase: according to Legatum, 88 percent of Britons believe that if you work hard you can get ahead in life, a slight increase from the 84 percent who said they believed so last year, and a sharp increase from the 78 percent who responded in the affirmative in 2010.

4. Indonesia improving
For much of human history, the centre of the world economy was in Asia. For a brief interim, Western Europe took up the position of world economic leader, before reluctantly passing the mantle to the US. In recent years however, the axis of the global economy is tilting back towards to the East.

While China and India, as the two most populous countries in the world, are at the forefront of the re-rise of Asia, other countries in South East Asia have also been quietly picking up steam – Indonesia in particular. In the past seven years the archipelago nation has climbed 21 places upon the Prosperity Index – more than any other country in the world. It has risen by 23 places in the Economy subsection and 14 in the Entrepreneurship and Opportunity subsection.

5. Migrants welcome
Immigration increasingly fuels political debate in the advanced economies of Europe and North America. Some nations have seen the rise of anti-immigrant parties or political candidates, while others have seen governments increasingly crackdown on immigration. Some countries, however, have remained steady in their welcoming attitudes towards migrants wishing to live among them.

Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Iceland and Ireland are the world’s five most tolerant countries when it comes to immigration. When asked if their country is a good place for immigrants, over 90 percent of respondents responded yes, with the exception of Ireland, where 89 percent replied in the affirmative.