Special Report

The Richest Countries in the World

Thomas C. Frohlich, Evan Comen

Helsinki, Finland
Source: Thinkstock

20. Finland
> GNI per capita: $38,868.14
> 2015 GDP: $224.94 billion
> Population: 5,482,013
> Life expectancy: 81.1 years at birth

Finland’s GNI per capita of $38,868 is among the highest in the world. The Nordic country exports primarily raw materials and production supplies. Finland’s forestry sector, for example, accounts for approximately 20% of the country’s export revenue and the country is one of the world’s top producers of paper — also a top export. Global shipments of paper from Finland in 2015 totalled $7.5 billion. While down from 2011, this was well above Finland’s next largest export, wood, which represented $1.9 billion in shipments.

The Finnish people have some of the highest standards of living in the world. Due in part to its tuition-free higher education system, 40% of 25 to 64 year old Finnish residents had attained tertiary education as of 2012, one of the highest college-level attainment rates worldwide.

Image of Ghent, Belgium during twilight blue hour.
Source: Thinkstock

19. Belgium
> GNI per capita: $41,243.31
> 2015 GDP: $494.85 billion
> Population: 11,285,721
> Life expectancy: 80.6 years at birth

Belgium’s top exports are pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and oil — each accounted for between 8% and 11% of the country’s 2015 global shipments. According to a recent international trade study from financial services company ING Group, import demand will grow to $568 billion in 2017, making Belgium the 16th largest importer in the world. The country is the headquarters of both the EU and NATO.

As is the case with the vast majority of wealthy nations, Belgium’s economic prosperity has helped improve living conditions of its residents. The life expectancy in the country, estimated at over 80 years, is among the highest of all countries.

Beautiful view of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Source: Thinkstock

18. Canada
> GNI per capita: $42,581.91
> 2015 GDP: $1.6 trillion
> Population: 35,851,774
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years at birth

The second largest country by landmass, Canada is rich with natural resources. Not surprisingly, a relatively large share of Canada’s economy is derived from natural resource harvesting. While that share has dwindled over the past two decades, the National Bank of Canada estimates that the forest, mineral, and energy industries account for about 14% of the country’s GDP. Canada exports more crude petroleum than any other product, and it is the world’s leading exporter of sawn wood.

By many socioeconomic measures, Canadians enjoy a slightly higher quality of life than their American counterparts. An estimated 88.5% of Canada residents use the internet compared to 74.5% of connected Americans. Additionally, the Canadian life expectancy at birth of 82.0 years is longer than the U.S. life expectancy of 78.9 years.

View of Sydney Harbour, Australia
Source: Thinkstock

17. Australia
> GNI per capita: $42,822.20
> 2015 GDP: $1.14 trillion
> Population: 23,781,169
> Life expectancy: 82.3 years at birth

Australia’s economy is the 18th largest in the world and its residents rank as the 17th wealthiest in the world. The country supplies almost half of the world’s iron ore, three-fourths of which it trades to China. Approximately 17% of Australia’s economic output comes from exports, and over half of Australia’s exports are oil, ores, slag, and ash.

Across the country, citizens enjoy some of the best educational and health outcomes worldwide. More than one-fourth of Australians have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the highest attainment rates in the world. The life expectancy at birth in the country is 82.3 years, the eighth longest of any country.

Hallstatt, Austria
Source: Thinkstock

16. Austria
> GNI per capita: $43,608.82
> 2015 GDP: $405.06 billion
> Population: 8,611,088
> Life expectancy: 81.3 years at birth

Landlocked between Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, and Slovenia, Austria has a diversified economy and exports a variety of products, including pharmaceuticals, electronic equipment, and automobiles. Austria’s closest trading partner is Germany, where it sends more than one-quarter of its exports.

The Austrian government spends 46.4% of its GDP on public goods and services — above the 38.3% average among all E.U. nations, and much higher than the 23.0% the U.S. government spends. Perhaps indicative of the country’s relatively high standard of living is Austria’s life expectancy. Austrians can expect to live to be about 81 years old versus the average across Europe and Central Asia of 77 years.