Why Switzerland has been ranked ‘best country’ in the world once again

Switzerland has again topped the global ‘best country’ rankings, sitting atop the list for the fourth year in a row. Here's why.

Why Switzerland has been ranked 'best country' in the world once again
Photo: Depositphotos

The rankings, put together annually by an American think tank made up of several prominent news and research organisations, placed Switzerland above average in several categories – from conducting business to quality of life. 

As reported by The Local Switzerland, Switzerland again claimed the top ranking – meaning that the neutral alpine nation has been on top of the list every time since it was founded in 2016. 

READ: Switzerland named 'world's best country' in 2019

Other countries to feature on the list were Germany (fourth overall), Sweden (eighth), Norway (tenth), France (12th), Denmark (13th), Italy (17th), Austria (18th) and Spain (19th). 

Switzerland – an all-round ‘best’ country

Switzerland finds itself on the top of the rankings for the fourth year in a row, followed by Canada, Japan, Germany and Australia. 

With the rankings starting off in 2016, no other country has ever been named on top. 

READ: Why Switzerland always ranks as one of the best places in the world to live 

Switzerland’s position at the top of the rankings is due to the country’s all-rounder status rather than any one metric. 

Indeed, Switzerland does not rank first in any of the six major categories in the rankings – most powerful, best to start a business, quality of life, for women, for education and green-living.

In fact, Switzerland is only in the top three of one of those six categories (second place in the green-living section). 

Why Swiss is best

Switzerland scored high in several reputational metrics, particularly surrounding its business sector. 

Switzerland scored high with regard to political and economic stability, transparency and equality. 

READ: International rankings showcase Switzerland's school struggles

Switzerland was also ranked second best in the world for conducting business and was considered the second-most trustworthy country. 

Rankings of Swiss quality of life and value of citizenship were also strong, both placing at seventh in the world. 

As noted by the authors of the report, “Switzerland has low unemployment, a skilled labor force and one of the highest gross domestic products per capita in the world…” 

“The country’s strong economy is powered by low corporate tax rates, a highly-developed service sector led by financial services and a high-tech manufacturing industry.”

Image: Depositphotos

Where improvements are necessary

As always, cost of living is a major concern for Switzerland. 

Switzerland failed to rank in the top 20 for ‘best countries to start a career’ and ‘best countries to invest in’. 

Switzerland was also ranked only 16th when it came to being the ‘most influential’.  

The report

The rankings are a joint project by digital news service US News & World Report, marketing company Y&R and the Wharton School, a business school at the University of Pennsylvania.

The report takes into account 73 countries from all across the globe, making assessments in a range of categories such as economic influence, military might, education and quality of life. 

The country named the “best” is considered to wield the most influence on a global scale. 


The 2020 rankings were based on a survey of just over 20,000 people comprising business leaders, ‘informed elites' and the general public in dozens of target countries. 

According to the makers of the survey, the Best Countries project is designed to “help citizens, business leaders and policymakers better understand how their nations are perceived on a world scale.”

Top ten

1. Switzerland

2. Canada 

3. Japan

4. Germany

5. Australia

6. United Kingdom 

7. United States 

8. Sweden  

9. Netherlands  

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10. Norway

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Why are the Swiss getting worse at speaking English?

Swiss command of the English language is continuing to decline, according to a worldwide report that ranks diff the ability of different nationalities to speak the language of Shakespeare. Here's how the Switzerland compares.

Why are the Swiss getting worse at speaking English?
Photo: Depositphotos

The report, released on Monday, shows that Switzerland has fallen to 19th on the global rankings, down from 15th in 2018 and 12th in 2017. 

One of the reasons for Switzerland sliding down the list may be that more and more countries are being included year after year, although this year’s points tally of 60.23 is lower than 2018’s 61.77.

A total of 100 countries were included on the list, up from 88 in 2018 and 32 in 2017. Holland came out on top, overtaking Sweden for first place. 

READ: Switzerland's 2018 ranking

Where do the Swiss speak English best?

This may not be news to anyone who’s spent much time in Switzerland’s different linguistic regions, but German-speaking Switzerland significantly outranks French and Italian-speaking Switzerland when it comes to English ability. 

With a score of 63.52, Zurich ranks as the region with the best English, roughly the same as Germany and Austria. The two cantons with the worst English are the Italian-speaking region of Ticino and the French-speaking Geneva. 

Image: Education First

Swiss men buck the trend

Another finding was that men are gradually catching up to women when it comes to English proficiency worldwide and across Europe – although the figures from Switzerland suggest that this began a long time ago. 

While across Europe and the globe women tend to have a better command of English, the opposite is true in Switzerland.

Swiss men rank half a point higher for English than Swiss women. 

Image: Education First

With four national languages, why aren't the Swiss doing better? 

One of the major reasons for Switzerland having a lower level of English the country's significant linguistic diversity. While this does prep the Swiss for learning English generally, it's often superseded by the requirement to learn another language. 

As Sue Wood, the President of the English Teachers Association of Switzerland, told The Local previously.

“There are four national languages here, and while English is the first foreign language taught in many cantons, there is also a requirement for primary school children to learn another national language,” she said. 

Swiss students all are required to learn two foreign languages, with the requirement that at least one of them is a national language. 

Wood told The Local that while Switzerland may be sliding down the rankings now, improvements were on the horizon. 

“Switzerland has invested a lot in English teaching in the last ten to 15 years. The newer teachers coming through now have had full in-depth teacher training and we are now waiting to see the results,” she said. 

The best – and the rest?

Switzerland is considered to be in the second tier of countries according to their ESL skills, with a ranking of ‘High’. Other countries in the ‘High’ bracket included Romania, Argentina and the Philippines. 

As could probably be expected, countries in the north of Europe were among the best in the world for their ESL (English as a Second Language) skills. 

The Netherlands topped the poll, taking first place from Sweden. Norway and Denmark came third and fourth respectively. 

The top bracket – ‘Very High’ – included 14 countries, 12 of which are in Europe. South Africa and Singapore were the only non-European countries to make the top tier. 

Switzerland’s low ranking may be somewhat surprising – particularly considering neighbouring Germany and Austria were in the top tier – but the Swiss still rank higher than a number of larger European nations. 

France, Spain and Italy all rank in the third tier as having a ‘Moderate’ comprehension of English. 

The report

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The report was compiled by Education First, an international education company founded in Sweden but ironically now headquartered in Lucerne.

The study is compiled by more than 2.3 million tests which take place across the globe – a 77 percent increase from 2018.