In the grand tapestry of the world’s economies, woven with threads of trade, innovation, and natural resources, some nations emerge distinctly more affluent than others. These countries, often called the richest countries in the world, are not just repositories of wealth but also crucibles of global influence and power.
Their riches are not merely reflected in towering skyscrapers or bustling marketplaces but also in the quality of life they afford their citizens, the technology they pioneer, and the cultural impacts they wield across the globe.
The metrics of wealth may vary – from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to Gross National Income (GNI) per capita – but the outcome is the same: a demonstration of economic prowess that shapes their role on the international stage.
What is net worth?
Commonly referred to as national net wealth but also known as national net worth, this is the sum of a country’s assets less its liabilities concerning external debt owed to foreign countries or international banks. It measures how much wealth a nation possesses at a given time and the size of its international monetary fund.
It’s a critical component of how a country’s credit rating is scored. Countries receive a credit rating through what is known as a sovereign credit rating assessment. An independent credit rating agency carries out this assessment upon the request of the sovereign state to investigate its financials and determine its creditworthiness.
Each nation’s net wealth is crucial for wealthy and developing nations because it significantly affects sovereign credit ratings. It greatly impacts foreign investments from many multinational corporations, entrepreneurs, and countries looking for trade deals with stable economies.
Additionally, eligibility for more favorable rates for international borrowing and financial assistance from different countries is based on trustworthiness and economic stability.
It’s perfectly plausible to measure the richest countries in the world by net worth.
The Richest Countries in the World by Net Worth
China and the United States have been the front-runners for the world’s first and second richest countries over the last ten years. Because of its abundant natural resources and export-oriented economy upheld by dominance in manufacturing for electronics, machinery, and textiles, next to its staggering industrial output, China has edged closer to the crown of the richest nation in the world by net worth.
Countries can place themselves among the world’s richest nations in several ways. A British overseas territory like the famous tax haven, the Cayman Islands, has relaxed government tax rules with zero income tax rates, attracting substantial foreign direct investment and the redirection of significant financial resources.
The economic engine of countries in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar is driven by vast natural resources like natural gas and oil. These natural resources allow these countries to amass considerable national wealth, and the per capita GDP is much higher than the GDP per capita in other developed nations with high GDP per capita values, wealth distribution, and a diverse economy.
More of the richest countries in net wealth, like South Korea and Germany, dominate high-tech industries and the production of goods such as mobile phones and motor vehicles that are essential in our daily lives today. They’ve managed to maintain strong economies, significant investments, and continued economic development.
That said, there’s only one clear winner when we consider all the factors determining the richest countries based on net worth.
According to Credit Suisse, the wealthiest nation in the world in 2022 by net worth was the United States, with a net wealth of $145.8 trillion.
There are several reasons for this:
- The US has a large and diversified economy; from the tourism industry and services sector to the banking industry and renewable energy, the country is relatively resilient to economic shocks. This has given the US an advantage over competing countries through difficult economic periods, helping create wealth and stimulate growth across various industries and sectors.
- The US has a strict rule of law and property rights culture that protects people’s ability to accumulate wealth.
- The US has a culture that encourages entrepreneurship and risk-taking. In many countries, people are happy to work and live everyday lives; the US has a fiercely competitive nature to it, where becoming rich and aiming way beyond an average wage is the ultimate goal for many.
- The US dollar is the world’s dominant reserve currency. The World Bank and many central banks worldwide prefer to hold US dollars and dollar-backed securities, so the demand for international dollars remains strong. As a result, the US can borrow more cheaply (at lower interest rates) than it would otherwise.
What is per capita?
In economics, business, and statistics, per capita refers to the average or median figure per person. It’s a Latin term that means “by the head” but is used to indicate “by the person.”
Concerning the wealthiest country in the world, per capita relates to the median numbers for net worth per person and the amount of money earned per person in a nation or geographic region.
Per capita income determines the average income per person for an area. It also determines purchasing power parity and is a decisive metric for organizations like the United Nations to evaluate the standard of living and quality of life.
The Richest Country in the World by Per Capita
Many countries like Germany and the United Kingdom are on the list regarding overall net worth. Still, due to population sizes, the per capita net worth can be substantially lower than in other nations with a lower net worth.
This is evident from small countries like Singapore and Israel being on the list of the richest countries in the world by the total value of financial assets per capita.
According to the 2023 UBS Global Wealth Report, Switzerland ranked as the wealthiest country in the world per capita, with a figure of $685,226. European countries with a comparatively low population made up four of the top eight richest countries in the world per capita. The top ten countries are:
- Switzerland– $685,226
- United States – $551,347
- Australia – $496,819
- Denmark – $409,954
- New Zealand – $388,761
- Norway – $385,338
- Singapore – $382,957
- Canada – $369,577
- Netherlands – $358,235
- Belgium – $352,814
Why European countries top the charts for the world’s richest countries by net worth per capita can be attributed to several things:
- Seven of the top ten countries with the highest salaries worldwide are in Europe.
- Europe has several countries in the top places for safe banking.
- Seven of the top ten countries for income equality are in Europe.
- Europe is the most economically stable region, which provides job security.
What is GDP?
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), also known as gross national income, is the principal factor determining the world’s richest countries. It measures how much money countries make, how much they produce, and what revenue their citizens generate per capita.
It enables a country’s policymakers and central banks to accurately judge whether the economy is expanding or contracting, whether it needs to be reinforced or repressed, and if economic threats such as a recession or widespread inflation loom on the horizon.
National income and product accounts (NIPA) are the basis for measuring a country’s GDP.
By using NIPA, economic policymakers, businesses, and many financial watchdog groups of any given country can examine the impact of variables like fiscal and monetary policy, economic shocks, such as a spike in oil prices, and federal tax and spending plans on specific subgroups of the economy, in addition to the country’s overall economic health.
In other words, the higher a nation’s GDP, the more financially stable and prosperous it is, and therefore, the more potential it has for GDP growth.
This leads to significant interest from multinational corporations and foreign businesses, as trade deals with firms in countries with a high overall GDP have a lower risk factor and can be highly profitable. A high GDP also provides leverage in trading talks, which increases spending power.
Financial watchdog groups also conclude that citizens living in countries with the highest GDP and per capita GDP enjoy a higher median wage for both private and public sector wages, lower income inequality, increased purchasing power, and access to better public services and welfare.
The human capital and GDP values based on what a country earns can highly favor foreign businesses, too. Services produced from international business practices are highly beneficial to even the wealthiest countries and tax havens.
The Richest Country in the World by GDP
A rich country with a high overall GDP may misrepresent how well it is doing economically. According to a study by the International Monetary Fund on the richest countries, China’s GDP for 2022 was $19.24 trillion. However, due to the size of China’s population, this figure gives a GDP per capita output of just $13,626.
A more accurate way to determine the richest countries in the world GDP-wise is to look at the average contribution to the economy per person. This is referred to as GDP per capita.
The US and China may lead regarding overall GDP, but European countries rule for GDP per capita, with a staggering four countries making up the top four places on the top ten countries for GDP per capita list.
According to projections from the International Monetary Fund in 2023, the wealthiest nation in the world in 2023 for GDP per capita was Luxembourg, with a sum of $128,820. The top ten countries are:
- Luxembourg – $128,820
- Ireland – $106,998
- Switzerland – $94,835
- Qatar – $89,417
- Norway – $88,749
- Singapore – $84,501
- United States – $78,422
- Iceland – $77,961
- Australia – $68,024
- Denmark – $66,394
For comparison, while the US has an overall GDP of $26.19 trillion, its GDP per capita is much lower at $75,180 than a rich country like Luxembourg, with a GDP per capita of $127,673.
A high GDP per capita is crucial when determining the wealthiest country in the world, as it strongly indicates economic growth, stability, financial health, and taxpayers’ contribution to the economy.
The strength of the Luxembourgish and Irish economy and other economic powerhouses in Europe demonstrate valid reasons to relocate there. Several European tax havens with strict laws on financial protection, universal deposit insurance, and tightly regulated financial institutions indicate that it’s the perfect region to protect global wealth.
The consistent foreign investment and high per capita wealth of residents in multiple EU nations earning very high average wages compared to the rest of the world mean that developed nations in the EU – like Malta, which offers program for citizenship – are the ideal places for American expats to set up shop and build a new life.
What is Gross National Happiness?
Gross National Happiness (GNH) measures economic and moral progress. Rather than focusing solely on quantitative economic factors such as GDP and money spent on social support by government bodies to determine a nation’s wealth, it considers other quality-of-life measures, which include:
- Good governance
- Ecological diversity
- Perception of corruption
- Freedom to make life choices
The Richest Country in the World by GNH
The GNH Index is a single-number index of 33 indicators under nine domain tiers. Finland was ranked number one on the World Happiness Report in 2023 with a score of 7.8. Countries in the European Union dominated the report, making up the next seven of the following eight places on the list:
- Denmark – 7.58
- Iceland – 7.53
- Israel – 7.47
- Netherlands – 7.4
- Sweden – 7.39
- Norway – 7.31
- Switzerland – 7.24
- Luxembourg – 7.22
- New Zealand – 7.12
The 33 indicators give a balanced view of what makes a country’s inhabitants happy. These range from strong passports allowing stress-free international travel to the availability of green spaces in urban areas. It also measures the average life expectancy of citizens and their generosity towards each other.
Scandinavian countries dominate the list, leading the world in accessible education, low corruption, functioning democracies, and welfare benefits.
What is the Human Development Index?
The Human Development Index (HDI) was introduced as part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP was put together to help developing countries eliminate widespread poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth and prosperity.
As part of the UNDP, the HDI puts greater emphasis on assessing people and their capabilities as a measurement of a country’s development rather than strictly on economic growth alone.
The HDI gives a broader overview of the inequalities between regions by measuring the average achievement in key dimensions of human development. These include education and average annual wage.
HDI is particularly relevant to those looking for the best countries to retire in as it highlights which countries excel in the areas of health and wellness and life expectancy.
The Richest Country in the World by HDI
Indicators are combined into a single number between 0 and 1.0 and split among four tiers: The lowest (below 0.55) for low human development and the highest (above 0.8) for very high human development. Switzerland scored the highest in the UNDP, with a score of 0.962.
Two more European countries came in second and third:
Norway – 0.961
Iceland – 0.959
Despite being a small country, Switzerland and other European countries like it came out on top for the 2022 report due to high average life expectancy, high average annual incomes, universal health care, and access to free education, as well as their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the Social Progress Index?
The Social Progress Index (SPI) is a report published by the US-based non-profit Social Progress Imperative. The report defines the wealthiest country in the world by its capacity to meet the basic human needs of its citizens by establishing the conditions that allow individuals to reach their full potential, and citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives.
The SPI score is a fair indicator to include when creating a wealthiest countries in the world list, as the report is used to complement the statistics of economic factors such as a country’s GDP per capita, purchasing power parity of citizens, and the overall Gross Domestic Product.
SPI takes a deeper dive into a country’s wealth on a social level.
It considers numerous non-economic elements, such as:
- Water and sanitation
- Personal safety
- Environmental quality
- Personal rights
- Access to advanced education
- Inclusion and equality
The Richest Country in the World by SPI
There are six tiers for SPI with scores up to 100. The Social Progress Imperative gave Norway an SPI score of 92.63 to top the chart for 2022.
The trend continued for the wealthiest nation in the world, with European nations making up the next four places:
Finland – 92.26
Denmark – 92.15
Iceland – 91.78
Switzerland – 91.78
Despite a clear correlation between economic development and social progress, the connection doesn’t always apply. A country’s financial capacity often doesn’t coincide with its level of social progress, especially for middle- and lower-income nations.
A European country like Portugal may not be the wealthiest country in the world by net worth or have a GDP per capita as high as the US. Still, Portugal is considered one of the best countries to move to from the US as it consistently ranks highly in SPI indicators such as personal safety, environmental quality, the standard of living, and health and wellness.
Portugal also ranked sixth after Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria in the 2022 Global Peace Index (GPI). GPI measures a country’s peacefulness based on factors such as its political stability and neutrality, citizens’ access to weapons, level of crime, and deaths due to conflicts at home and abroad.
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Frequently Asked Questions about the Richest Country in the World
Which is the number one wealthiest country globally?
With an overall net worth of $145.8 trillion and a GDP of $25.46 trillion, the US is the number one richest nation in the world.
Which country was the richest in 2022?
The richest country in 2022 was the United States. With the largest economy in the world, the USA topped the rich list ranking in net worth with a sum of $145.8 trillion and a GDP of $25.46 trillion.
Is America the richest country in the world?
In terms of GDP ranking and total wealth, America is the richest nation in the world. The United States GDP is $25.46 trillion, and overall net worth is $145.8 trillion. America has been the world’s richest nation for over 60 years.
Is Switzerland the richest country in Europe?
Switzerland is often considered one of the richest countries in Europe and worldwide due to its high GDP per capita, robust financial sector, and strong Swiss economy. However, it’s important to note that other European countries, such as Luxembourg and Norway, also have a high GDP per capita and significant wealth.
While Switzerland’s economy is strong and globally revered, the ranking of the “richest” country can vary depending on the specific criteria used, such as GDP, income distribution, and overall economic development.
Which country taxes the rich the most?
Among the countries renowned for taxing high-income individuals at significant rates, the Ivory Coast stands out as the nation that imposes some of the highest tax burdens on the affluent. Ivory Coast’s top marginal tax rate is 60 percent.
Is Dubai the richest country in the world?
Dubai is not a sovereign country; it is one of the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is a federation of emirates, with Dubai being one of them. While the UAE is known for its abundant natural resources, luxurious lifestyle, tax-free salaries, and low corporate tax rate, it is not among the world’s richest countries.
Regarding GDP per capita, countries like Qatar and Luxembourg tend to rank higher. Additionally, the term “richest” can be interpreted in various ways, including considering factors like total GDP, wealth distribution, and economic diversity. Therefore, while Dubai is affluent and economically prosperous, it is not the richest nation in the world.
Is Singapore a very rich country?
Singapore is widely known as one of the most prosperous and wealthy countries in the world. It has a high GDP per capita, well-developed infrastructure, a strong financial services sector, and a well-developed economy. Singapore’s economic success is attributed to its strategic location, pro-business policies, strong trade ties, and efficient governance.
The city-state is known for its modern skyline, high standard of living, and reputation as a global financial hub. While wealth can be measured in various ways, Singapore’s economic indicators and quality of life often position it as one of the richest countries in the world.
Why did Hong Kong get so rich?
Hong Kong’s remarkable ascent to economic affluence is attributed to a combination of strategic factors and sound policies. Its strategic geographic location at the heart of Asia has positioned it as a pivotal trade and financial hub, facilitating commerce and investments from around the world.
The special administrative region has been committed to maintaining an open and free market economy characterized by low corporate tax rates, minimal government intervention, and robust business regulations, cultivating an environment conducive to entrepreneurship and foreign investment.