The Most Productive Nations in the World

24/7 Wall St.

24/7 Wall St. decided to find the most productive countries in the world. The challenge of creating this list could be framed in a number of ways, including selecting a source for the data and determining the measurements used.

24/7 elected to use GDP per capita as the measurement and the International Monetary Fund as the source for the data. The GDP is, of course, affected by the country's population, its natural resources or its manufacturing expertise. In addition, the minimum standard of living mandated by each government impacted the earning power of the people in each of these countries.

1. Norway

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*Population: 4,676,305
*GDP: $382 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $52,561

The northern European nation is a nearly perfect mixture of government economic planning based on welfare capitalism, and a lightly regulated business environment. Norway has huge oil reserves, which account for 30 percent of the nation's income. It is also the third-largest gas exporter in the world. These energy industries, plus forest products and hydropower, mean high income and low unemployment for a nation that has a population of less than half that of New York City.

2. Singapore

*Population: 4,701,069
*GDP : $177 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $50,522

Like Norway, the government has almost complete control of the economy and allows free enterprise to flourish in a business-friendly environment. The high level of education (93 percent of citizens over 15 can read) among the population drives large consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals industries. Singapore is also one of the largest financial centers in Asia.

3. United States of America

*Population: 310,232,863
*GDP: $14.25 trillion
*GDP Per Capita: $46,380

The U.S. is the only particularly large country by population on the top 20 list, with the exception of Japan which is less than half its size. America has several advantages as an economy. The first, manufacturing capacity, is the most obvious. So is the size of the consumer sector. But, the two things that put the U.S. into a different category are agriculture and intellectual property. American farms still out-produce those of any other nation. America completely dominates the world's information technology, proprietary premium content and the Internet.

4. Switzerland

*Population: 7,623,438
*GDP: $494 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $43,007

This is another example of a country which has strict and nearly complete control of its economy. The government tax structure favors business. The nation has a huge financial services and banking industry -- part of the Switzerland's legacy of neutrality. Ninety-nine percent of the population over 15 can read, perhaps the most essential factor for an educated workforce.

5. Hong Kong SAR, China

*Population: 7,089,705
*GDP: $210 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $42,748

The People's Republic is in control of all policy, and the local economy is heavily regulated. At the same time, it is China's conduit to the free market. Hong Kong "re-exports" goods, most of which are produced on the mainland. It is one of the three financial centers of the region, along with Shanghai and Tokyo. Banking giant HSBC has its headquarters there, and many other global banks have their Asia management located in the city.

6. The Netherlands

*Population: 16,783,092
*GDP: $795 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $39,937

Through its ports and airports, this country is one of the largest gateways to Europe. The nation is highly industrialized and exports manufactured goods in the chemical and electric machinery sectors. The Netherlands is also home to much of the oil refinery capacity in Northern Europe.

7. Ireland

*Population: 4,250,163
*GDP: $228 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $39,468

The country is the home of a number of manufacturing and distribution center for multinational companies, which originally turned to the nation because of its low labor costs. A mortgage bubble in the country, which began a decade ago, caused an increase in construction activity. This happened at about the same time that personal income was rising due to a need for educated workers.

8. Australia

*Population: 21,515,754
*GDP: $997 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $38,910

The island nation has an economy not unlike the one in the U.S. a century ago. The country has little intellectual property, but its range of natural resources has few peers. Some of the largest mines and mining companies in the world are in Australia due to large deposits of iron ore and copper. The country is also a large supplier of natural gas. The government, which promotes free-market regulations, is also critical to Australia's success.

9. Austria

*Population: 8,214,160
*GDP: $381 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $38,838

The country is a large trading partner with Germany. Austria is a major financial center and has large steel manufacturing and chemical plants. Over 10 percent of the country's GDP comes from tourism.

10. Kuwait

*Population: 2,789,132
*GDP: $111 billion
*GDP Per Capita: $38,304

The nation's oil reserves are the fifth-largest among all nations -- ahead of Venezuela, Russia and the U.S. And the country has only 2.9 million people. The industry supports that population so completely that unemployment is only slightly above two percent.

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