Located in Southeast Asia, Malaysia enchants with its diverse landscapes and vibrant cultural heritage. Renowned for natural wonders like the Cameron Highlands and pristine beaches of Langkawi, Malaysia also showcases a blend of traditional and modern influences in cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The nation’s cuisine, including nasi lemak and laksa, has gained international acclaim.

Economically, Malaysia thrives with a robust manufacturing sector and tech industry. However, challenges such as environmental conservation, social cohesion, and ensuring access to quality education and healthcare persist, requiring ongoing attention and strategic efforts.

But, what do global rankings and indices have to say about Malaysia – its sustainability, country brand strength and reputation?

Let’s take a closer look at: 

  • Malaysia’s soft power and country brand strength
  • Its appeal to skilled labour, investors and visitors
  • The country’s global contribution to peace and well-being
  • How well it fares in terms of happiness and sustainability

Malaysia’s soft power and brand strength

How does Malaysia compare in terms of reputation and brand value globally?

In the Global Soft Power Index 2024 by Brand Finance, Malaysia secures the 35th spot, above Greece (36th) and Kuwait (37th). Malaysia’s score has grown by +3.10, and the position improved by four places from last year’s index.

In the U.S. News Best Countries 2023 ranking, Malaysia secures 38th position, behind Russia (37th) and Israel (36th). Malaysia ranks the best in those key areas: Open for Business (12th), Quality of Life (31st), Movers (31st), and Adventure (31st). However, the area of Social Purpose ranked the lowest (55th).

Appeal to digital nomads, business, trade and travel 

What is the global perception of Malaysia as a destination for living, conducting business, and tourism?

The Expat Insider 2023 features Malaysia in the TOP 5 countries for expats.

The country performs exceptionally well in Housing (2nd), Language (4th), Personal Finance (5th), Finding Friends (10th), Local Friendliness (14th), Culture and Welcome (15th), and Healthcare (19th). In fact, not many areas rank below 30th place: Digital Life (31st), Work and Leisure (32nd), Salary and Job Security (33rd), and only one area ranked under 40th position: Safety and Security (46th). These figures show Malaysia is a welcoming and budget-friendly country. Expats will experience a pleasant time integrating into society, making friends, and feeling good at work.

The Bloom Consulting biannual Country Brand Ranking Trade Edition 2022-2023 assesses investment-related variables, emphasizing perceptions of a country’s trade-specific brand and evaluating branding performance. Regionally, Malaysia ranks 7th, behind Hong Kong SAR (6th) and Indonesia (5th). Worldwide, Malaysia ranks 22nd.

In addition, the Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking Tourism Edition 2022-2023 places Malaysia at 7th position in Asia, climbing by two positions since last year’s ranking. Malaysia ranks behind Hong Kong (6th) and South Korea (5th). Worldwide, Malaysia ranks 25th, behind Hong Kong (24th) and Norway (23rd).

In the IMD 2023 World Competitiveness Ranking, Malaysia secured the 27th position, climbing by five positions since 2022. Currently, it sits just behind Estonia (26th) and Bahrain (25th) while surpassing South Korea (28th) and the UK (29th).

Malaysia showed notable improvements in 2023, ranking 7th in economic performance (up from 12th in 2022). Government efficiency improved to 29th (from 38th), and business efficiency rose to 32nd (from 38th). Additionally, infrastructure improved slightly to 35th (from 37th).

How “good” is Malaysia?

In the Caf World Giving Index 2024, Malaysia ranked 31st, trailing behind Uganda (30th) and Guinea (29th). Notably, Malaysia performs best in the factor of donated money, with 55% of the adult population partaking in such activity.

In the Good Country Index, Malaysia improved to the 48th overall position (up from 52nd in 2022). Remarkably, it ranked 5th in International Peace and Security (up from 56th). Culture also improved to 37th (from 59th). However, Prosperity and Equality dropped to 41st (from 16th), and Health and Wellbeing fell to 73rd (from 50th).

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index 2023, Malaysia ranked in the light blue (7-8 range) with a 7.30 out of 10. This is a slightly better score to that of neighbouring countries, such as Thailand (6.30), the Philippines (6.70), and Indonesia (6.50).

The 2022 Corruption Perception Index ranks Malaysia 61st, tying Jordan (61st). The country ranks behind Vanuatu (60th) and surpassing Armenia (63rd) and Romania (63rd).

Peace and happiness 

Is Malaysia a happy and safe place?

The Global Peace Index 2023 ranks Malaysia 19th, remaining in the same position since last year’s edition. Malaysia now sits ahead of Belgium (20th) and Qatar (21st). It falls at the high end of the ‘State of Peace’ spectrum, as defined by the Institute for Economics & Peace. Regionally, Malaysia is positioned 4th.

The Institute for Economics & Peace ranks Malaysia within the very low zone regarding the ‘Impact of Terrorism’ in the 2024 Global Terrorism Index. Malaysia ranks 81st, behind Iceland (79th).

Meanwhile, the World Happiness Report 2024, which displays the Ranking of Happiness based on a three-year average (2021–2023), ranks Malaysia (59th), behind Thailand (58th) and ahead of China (60th). Malaysia dropped from 55th position in 2023.

Sustainability performance 

How well does Malaysia perform in terms of environmentally sustainable action-taking?

The 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) edition ranks Malaysia 130th. The EPI analyses the performance of 180 countries, scoring and ranking these countries on their environmental performance using the most recent year of data available, as well as providing calculable changes in scores over the previous decade. Malaysia has experienced a change in score of positive 10.30 in the past ten years.

The Sustainable Development Report 2023 ranks Malaysia 79th. The Report highlights that it still faces many major challenges for the country (SDG 2 Zero Hunger, SDG 5 Gender Equality, SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities, SDG 14 Life Below Water, and SDG 15 Life on Land). However, no SDGs are experiencing a downward trend. Moreover, SDG 1 No Poverty is considered as achieved.

Talent attraction and competitiveness 

How well does the country attract and retain talent?

The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index 2019 places Malaysia at 27th position among 141 countries. However, it’s important to note that an updated version of this report hasn’t been released in the past five years, and rankings may have shifted since then.

Malaysia, classified as an upper-middle income country within the Eastern, Southeastern Asia and Oceania regional group, currently holds the 42nd overall position in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2023. Regionally, Malaysia ranks 8th.

In terms of education excellence, Malaysia does not have any universities within the top 100 worldwide, according to the World University Rankings 2024. However, the University of Malaya ranked 63rd for Impact in 2024 and 65th in the Asia University Rankings 2024. Moreover, the Universiti Teknologi Petronas ranked 32nd in the Young University Rankings 2024 and 52nd in the Asia University Rankings 2024.

Last updated in June 2024. Find more country profiles here

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