Special Report

The Richest and Poorest Countries

20. Belgium
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $533.4 billion
> Population: 11,225,207
> Life expectancy: 80.4 years

With a GNI of $43,030 per capita, Belgium’s roughly 11 million residents are the 20th wealthiest in the world. Due to Belgium’s central location in Western Europe, it is able to provide transportation services for the region. Exports make up 83.6% of the nation’s GDP, one of the highest such shares worldwide and an indication of the country’s trade-dependent economy. Belgium and neighboring Luxembourg have formed an economic union, and together the two countries primarily trade refined petroleum.

The Belgian government spends 44.8% of its GDP on goods and services for its people, a higher share than in all but five countries. Perhaps as a result, Belgians enjoy a fairly high standard of living. About 85.0% of the Belgian population has Internet access, close to the 87.4% of Americans who do. Likewise, Belgians can expect to live to 80 years old, slightly higher than the regional average of 77 years.

19. Canada
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $1786.7 billion
> Population: 35,540,419
> Life expectancy: 81.4 years

The world’s second biggest country by landmass, Canada has the world’s 11th largest economy and the 19th wealthiest residents. Canada is unique among developed countries in that a significant sector of its economy is derived from natural resources. Its top export is crude petroleum, and it is the world’s leading exporter of sawn wood.

Canadians enjoy a standard of living similar to that of United States’ residents. About 87.1% of Canadians have access to the Internet, similar to the 87.4% of Americans who do. Canada’s unemployment rate of 6.8% is slightly higher than the U.S. rate of 5.3%.

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18. Austria
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $436.3 billion
> Population: 8,534,492
> Life expectancy: 80.9 years

With a GNI per capita of $45,040, Austrians are some of the wealthiest people in the world. Landlocked between Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, and Slovenia, the Western European country has a diversified economy and exports a variety of products, such as packaged medicines, vehicle parts, and cars. Austria’s closest trading partner is Germany, where it sends 27% of its exports.

Like the rest of Europe and Central Asia, the Austrian government spends 38.3% of its GDP on public goods and services — significantly more than the 23.1% the U.S. government spends. Austrians also enjoy a relatively high standard of living. For example, Austrians can expect to live to about 81 years old, versus the regional average of 77 years.

17. Denmark
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $342.0 billion
> Population: 5,639,565
> Life expectancy: 80.3 years

Like each of the five Nordic countries, Denmark is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The country’s exports — a diverse blend of chemical, petroleum, machine, and animal products — makes up 53.7% of the country’s $342 billion GDP, which is the eighth largest share worldwide.

Denmark’s citizens are subject to some of the highest tax rates anywhere. Partially as a result, the Danish government spends 43.1% of its GDP on goods and services, such as grants and social benefits, on its citizens, the eighth highest share of any nation. The Danish government is also the least corrupt in world.

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16. Sweden
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $570.6 billion
> Population: 9,689,555
> Life expectancy: 81.7 years

With a GNI of $46,710 per capita, Sweden is the second wealthiest country in the Nordic region after Norway. Like most Nordic nations, Sweden exports more than it imports and maintains high taxes across all income brackets. Sweden has the 12th most balanced distribution of wealth worldwide, according to the Gini coefficient, a measure of income distribution. Perhaps as a result, the Swiss enjoy a high standard of living. Nearly all young children — 99.3% — are enrolled to primary school, the sixth highest enrollment rate worldwide.

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