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UK revealed as most prosperous of all major EU countries

Legatum Institute

4 min read Partner content

2014 Legatum Prosperity Index™ reveals Norway is the most prosperous country in the world while the Central African Republic finishes bottom of the rankings.

The United Kingdom is today revealed as the most prosperous of all the major EU countries in an international study published by the Legatum Institute.

The results of the 2014 Prosperity Index show the UK is ranked at 13, three places higher than last year’s Index. The UK is the most prosperous of all the leading major EU nations, coming ahead of Germany (14th), France (21st), Spain (26th) and Italy (37th). The UK also finished in the top 20 countries in six of the eight categories, including health, education, governance and personal freedom.

The Index reveals that the UK is a world-leader for entrepreneurship (8th in the world). This, combined with other non-economic factors such as improvements in how people feel about their personal
safety (up from 66%-74% compared to 2009), the perception that working hard gets you ahead (up from 78%- 84%) and people feeling as though they have more personal freedom (up from 78%- 91%), places Britain among the most prosperous countries in the world.

The Index also shows that British people are some of the most charitable in the world and the country is marked by strong social bonds. The UK ranks 12th on the Social Capital sub-index, again above its European peers (Germany is 17th and France 56th). Brits are world-leaders in charitable giving: 74% of Brits donate to charity; the 4th highest in the Index, the figure is 42% in Germany and 26% in France.

The Prosperity Index measures a set of eight categories that reveal how nations perform both economically and in vital areas of education, health, personal freedom, safety and security and entrepreneurship. The Index covers 142 countries in the world, accounting for 96 per cent of the world’s population and 99 per cent of global GDP making it the most comprehensive tool of its kind.

The Index shows that freer, more socially cohesive and well-governed countries recovered from the financial crash better than the rest. Data from the Index also show that prosperity is positively correlated with mobility and opportunity. Simply put, the most prosperous countries are those that provide opportunities to their citizens and where social mobility is high.

Other interesting findings from the report include:

- New Zealand is the highest climber at 3rd on the Prosperity Index. The resurgence of the economy has seen it rise on the Economy sub-index, from 27th in 2012 to its highest ever rank - 15th- in 2014. However, New Zealand’s success is also driven by strong personal freedom and social capital. New Zealand is number one on the Personal Freedom sub-index. ?

- The United States is no longer perceived to be the ‘land of the free’. While the economy has improved as result of the fall in unemployment and an uplift in economic sentiment, the US comes 21st when it comes to personal freedom, trailing Canada (5th), Uruguay (8th) and Costa Rica (18th). The US has also become less tolerant of ethnic minorities and immigrants over the last six years. ?

- Russia is the worst performing country in Europe this year, falling seven places on the Prosperity Index to 68th. This is largely due to their rankings in governance (113th) and personal freedom (124th). ?

- Sierra Leone is the worst performing country on the Health sub-index and Sub-Saharan African countries make up nine of the bottom 10 countries on this sub-index. The health systems in the majority of countries in the region are underdeveloped and ill-prepared to face serious threats to public health, such as the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:

“Today’s report by the Legatum Institute which shows the UK as the most prosperous major EU country provides further international support for the government’s long term economic plan. Thanks to the difficult decisions we have taken to deliver economic security and control the public finances we have moved three places up the global rankings. It is fantastic to see Britain leading the way for entrepreneurship, personal freedom, health and education.”

James Barty, Senior Adviser at the Legatum Institute, said:

“Politicians are often blinkered by what drives national success. Although a solid economy is a pre-requisite - and the government should be proud of its achievements in putting the public finances on a sound footing - other factors are vital when it comes to prosperity. The United Kingdom is leading the way among the major EU states, particularly in being a world leader for entrepreneurship and personal freedom. We should take heart from being ranked in the top 20 in six out of the eight categories including health and education. “The Prosperity Index shows that countries that have recovered faster from the financial crash are those where social bonds between people create trust, compassion and tolerance, where individual liberty is protected and where the rule of law is upheld.”

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