Lessons from Europe’s 5 Most Prosperous Countries


The two hemispheres of Europe are developing in two entirely different paces. While Eastern Europe is steadily rising, Western Europe is experiencing slower growth.

Based on Legatum Institute’s 2018 Index, almost all countries in Eastern Europe have improved their overall prosperity scores over the past five years. This indicates development that is significantly faster than the average speed of development in all other countries combined.

Meanwhile, their western counterparts also saw improvements – albeit a tad slower – particularly in the Natural Environment, Economic Quality, and Social Capital pillars of prosperity. The region is at second place, tailing North America which is dubbed as the most prosperous region in the world.

To fully understand how Europe was able to achieve these feats, this article discusses the five wealthiest, happiest, and healthiest European nations and how they came to be known as the most prosperous countries in the world.

Norway: A nation of the happily governed

Ranked first out of 149 nations around the world, Norway got the highest prosperity score from the London-based think tank. Despite being part of the European hemisphere with slower growth, Norway was able to snag a spot in the top 10 under almost every pillar of prosperity.

In fact, the nation has traveled its way up the prosperity rankings by four places since Legatum launched the Index in 2007. In 2018, Norway earned the top rank in Safety and Security and placed third in Social Capital and Governance. The nation also scored better than other European countries in the Governance pillar, particularly in the aspect of the rule of law.

The only pillar under which Norway didn’t get a Top 10 spot is in Business Environment. The country also saw a three-spot drop from its previous ranking on Health.

Finland: Safety, education, and governance at their finest

Taking the third spot in the 2018 Prosperity Index, Finland has improved in rank by one place since the Index began in 2007. According to the summary of the country’s prosperity score, it saw the biggest improvement in Safety and Security and a significant drop in rank in the Health pillar.

Finland also had the highest rank in Education and Governance. Like Norway, this nation is governed by the rule of law, which means its citizens are highly confident that the laws of their country are being implemented equally. Two other European nations that earned their citizens’ confidence in this aspect are Sweden and Switzerland.

Switzerland: Healthy government and economy make a healthy country

Switzerland is not only a nation of villages, lakes, and the high peaks of the Alps — it is also the fourth most prosperous country in the world. Moving up by five places since the Index started, this nation had the highest rank in the Education pillar of the 2018 Prosperity Index. It also claimed the fourth spot in terms of Economic Quality, Governance, and Health.

While Switzerland is the third most prosperous European nation, it scored significantly lower when it comes to Personal Freedom. Based on the Index, it ranked 21st out of 149 countries in this prosperity pillar. Aside from that, the Swiss also reported lower confidence in their nation’s Safety and Security, causing the drop in its pillar ranking by nine places.

Denmark: Combining great economy and society for prosperity

Aside from being the leading player behind the steady rise of Eastern Europe, Denmark also ranked fifth across the Legatum 2 018 Prosperity Index. While it is three spots lower than its previous score in the entire history of the Index, the country’s performance on Economic Quality and Social Capital still helped it become one of the five most prosperous nations in the planet.

According to the think tank, Denmark had the best score in the Social Capital pillar, taking the fifth spot in the 2018 Index. It also took a spot in the Top 10 of the Economic Quality, Business Environment, Governance, Education, and Safety and Security pillars of prosperity. Moreover, Denmark has better scores in Health compared to previous years despite being well below the Top 10.

Sweden: Raising the quality of education for prosperity

Although Sweden cannot join its European neighbors in the Top 5 Most Prosperous Nations in the world, ranking sixth out of 149 countries is still a laudable feat, considering that it has maintained its position since the beginning of the Index in 2007.

The country also had the best scores in Economic Quality, Governance, and Education, ranking fifth, sixth, and seventh place, respectively. Plus, Legatum recorded Sweden’s most significant improvement in Education after it rose by three places in 2018.

Europe’s Most Notable Feat

Prosperity is measured according to various aspects of life in a country or region. A nation can be considered prosperous not only because of its gross domestic product, but also because of the quality of life that the citizens have. Europe, particularly its eastern nations, saw significant progress in the 2018 Index, which is a remarkable achievement despite the unequal growth in the continent.