We seem to be in the season for the publishing of rankings of countries for various things related to business or quality of life. I think what is interesting is not just the absolute order of rank (no-one is surprised to see Syria or Afghanistan usually at the bottom) but how things change from year to year.

Here is a selection of some favourites with links:


This index is compiled by Transparency International. Denmark came first with Singapore in fourth place (Hong Kong is not shown separately). Interestingly Australia (13th) and the USA (22nd) suffered declines from previous years. 

Ease of doing business

The World Bank produces a good ease of doing business report annually. In the latest publication Hong Kong is up one place to fourth rank (after Denmark, Singapore and New Zealand). Interestingly China shot up 32 places (to 46th) thanks to its recent reform measures.

Heritage economic freedom

The Heritage Foundation (an American think tank) in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal has produced an index of economic freedom since 1995. Hong Kong has been consistently the top performer and is again ranked first. 

Best countries to live in

There are numerous compendiums of countries ranked by happiness or just ease of living for expatriates. The United Nation’s human development index is probably the most comprehensive and the latest one shows Norway first, Hong Kong in seventh place and Singapore 9th. The UK and USA come in at 13 and 14. 

Most expensive countries/cities

There are several organisations that publish cost of living comparisons for cities or countries. There can often be quite dramatic changes from year to year because of currency movements. The latest survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit puts Hong Kong, Singapore and Paris at the top with (surprise) Caracas as the cheapest. 

Most polluted

Again there are many air quality indicies published but my favourite is the world air quality index. This uses real-time data from monitoring stations in cities around the world. China was the worst at time of writing. 

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James C Sutherland

Zetland Tax