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U.S. Returns to No. 1 in Global Competitiveness, Report Says

The United States is the most globally competitive nation in the world for the first time since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, according to a new report.

Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan rounded out the top five.

The latest Global Competitiveness Report, conducted by the World Economic Forum, uses a new methodology that aims to better account for the effects of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. WEF, as it’s known, credits three things for U.S. supremacy among 140 economies: market size, innovation ecosystem (including idea generation, entrepreneurial culture, openness, and agility), and stability. The study measured each nation using 98 indicators.

“These developments—the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the consequences of the Great Recession—are redefining the pathways to prosperity and, indeed, the very notion of prosperity, with profound implications for policy-making,” wrote WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab in the report’s preface. “Concerned leaders are grappling for answers and solutions, aiming to go beyond short-term, reactionary measures.”

It’s not all sunshine for the U.S., though. According to WEF, there are indications of a weakening social fabric in the States—the nation scored 63.3 out of 100, down from 65.5—and worsening security thanks to a homicide rate that’s five times the average of other advanced economies. What’s more, the U.S. was just 40th place for checks and balances (score: 76.3 out of 100), 15th for judicial independence (79.1 out of 100), and 16th for corruption (75 out of 100).

But the American innovation economy is strong. “Once the preserve of the most advanced economies, innovation has become an imperative for all advanced economies and a priority for a growing number of emerging countries. And yet the vast majority of them are struggling to make innovation a meaningful engine of growth,” the report’s authors write. “The results show that there are only a few innovation powerhouses in the world, including Germany, the United States and Switzerland.”

The top 20 countries in the world as ranked by global competitiveness, according to WEF:

1. United States 85.6
2. Singapore 83.5
3. Germany 82.8
4. Switzerland 82.6
5. Japan 82.5
6. Netherlands 82.4
7. Hong Kong 82.3
8. United Kingdom 82.0
9. Sweden 81.7
10. Denmark 80.6
11. Finland 80.3
12. Canada 79.9
13. Taiwan 79.3
14. Australia 78.9
15. South Korea 78.8
16. Norway 78.2
17. France 78.0
18. New Zealand 77.5
19. Luxembourg 76.6
20. Israel 76.6

Why does global competitiveness matter? Because it contributes to higher living standards and generates the resources needed for wider societal goals, according to the report.

“There are, inevitably, tensions—social, economic, and environmental—between the various dimensions of economic progress,” the report’s authors write. “However, there are no inherent trade-offs among them. We believe that a competitiveness agenda is not just compatible but integral to the pursuit of other developmental goals.”