Sweden: how does the Nordic country that has more than half of its territory covered with forest land, perform in global rankings that measure environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness? How easy is it to start a business in this EU-country that has maintained its own currency? What about Sweden’s reputation as a nation brand? Has the country’s political neutrality in international conflicts contributed to its global reputation?

Let’s take a closer look at:

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

Sweden’s soft power and brand strength

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

In the Global Soft Power Index 2023 by Brand Finance, Sweden’s Soft Power has been recognised globally, with the country’s score increasing by 2.8 points in 2023, resulting in the nation climbing up the ranking by 3 spots to the 11th rank, retaining its position as the most highly ranked Nordic Soft Power, followed by Norway (rank 17). Sweden ranks 3rd globally in the “Sustainable Future” pillar reflecting the nation’s efforts towards environmental sustainability.

In the U.S. News Best Countries 2023 ranking, Sweden secures the 3rd position, behind Switzerland (1st) and Canada (2nd); a jump of two positions from the previous year. Notably, Sweden leads two key areas: social purpose (1st) and quality of life (1st).

The Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brand Index (NBI) calculates its ranking based on averaging the scores of six different factors: exports, governance, tourism, culture, people and immigration, and tourism. According to the NBI 2023 ranking Sweden secures the 10th position, a drop of one position since 2022.

Talent in Sweden

Is Swedish talent internationally appreciated?

The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index 2019 edition placed Sweden at the 8th position among 141 countries. However, it’s important to note that an updated version of this report hasn’t been released in the past 5 years, and rankings may have shifted since then.

Sweden, classified as a high-income country within the European regional group, currently holds the 9th position in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2023. Notably, Sweden performs most remarkably in the Enable and GK Skills pillars where it holds the 6th position for both and its main challenge is the VT Skills pillar where it ranked 19th.

In terms of education excellence, Sweden boasts two universities within the top 100 worldwide, according to the World University Rankings 2024. These esteemed institutions are: Karolinska University and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Sweden’s appeal to digital nomads, business, trade and travel 

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

The Expat Insider 2023 ranks Sweden in 24th position out of 53 countries, below the Netherlands (22nd) and Switzerland (23rd). Sweden’s best metrics are: Work and Leisure (2nd), Work Culture and Satisfaction (2nd), and Environment and Climate (4th).

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, Sweden placed 10th behind Spain (8th) and Turkey (9th). Globally, Sweden secures the 22nd position, a jump of two positions from the previous ranking.

In addition, the Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking Tourism Edition 2022-2023 places Sweden at the 29th global position.  Regionally, Sweden continues to hold the 15th position, sitting behind Norway (13th) and Ireland (14th). 

In the IMD 2023 World Competitiveness Ranking, Sweden placed 8th, which is a drop of four positions from the 2022 ranking. In terms of specific characteristics, Sweden’s economic performance dropped seven positions to the 28th spot in 2023. It holds the 14th position for government efficiency, experiencing a drop of five positions compared to 2022. Lastly, Sweden dropped four positions for business efficiency now placing 6th, and holds the 4th spot for infrastructure, a drop of one position.

According to the European Innovation Scoreboard 2023, Sweden belongs to the first group, Innovation Leaders, alongside Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Sweden has experienced a change of positive 10.4 between 2016-2023. Its strengths are: Public-private co-publications, Lifelong learning, International scientific co-publications, Foreign doctorate students and Employed ICT specialists. WHile its weaknesses are: Job-to-job mobility of HRST, Resource productivity, Non-R&D Innovation expenditures, Government support for business and R&D Medium and high-tech goods exports.

Sweden’s environmental sustainability

Is Sweden an example of environmental sustainability?

The 2022 edition of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks Sweden 5th. The EPI analyzes 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. Sweden has experienced a change in score of positive 15.8.

Sweden as a good country

How does Sweden score on studies that focus on a country’s contribution to global well-being and peace?

In the Caf World Giving Index 2023, Sweden secured the 25th position, jumping twenty-five positions compared to the previous year. Notably, Sweden performs admirably in the subfactor of donating money (6th), with 65% of its adult population donating money.

In the Good Country Index, Sweden currently holds the 1st position overall, with notable subfactors as follows: Science & Technology (15th), Culture (13th), International Peace & Security (39th), World Order (9th), Planet & Climate (2nd), Prosperity & Equality (1st), and Health & Wellbeing (2nd). The country has maintained its 2022 positioning.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index 2023, Sweden ranked in the dark blue zone (9-10 range) with a 9.39 out of 10. This is higher than Denmark who scored 9.28 and Ireland 9.13, but lower than Norway who scored 9.81.

The 2022 Corruption Perception Index, ranks Sweden 5th with a score of 83/100. Sweden’s score has decreased by two since 2021. 

The Sustainable Development Report 2023 ranks Sweden in 2nd position, it highlights that Sweden, although in the top 10, still has some challenges to overcome. However, the No Poverty and Gender Equality factors have achieved the status of  SDG achievement and continue to be on track, while the Affordable and Clean Energy factor has reached the SDG achievement status and is moderately increasing. Lastly, Clean Water and Sanitation is on track although some challenges remain.

Peace and happiness in Sweden

Is Sweden a happy and safe place to invest time and money in?

The Global Peace Index 2023 ranks Sweden 28th, jumping one position from last years’ index. Sweden sits behind Latvia (27th), and above Poland (29th). Sweden falls under the high sector of the ‘State of Peace’ spectrum as defined by the Institute for Economics & Peace. 

The Institute for Economics & Peace similarly ranks Sweden within the medium impact (orange) zone in terms of ‘Impact of Terrorism’ in the 2022 Global Terrorism Index. Sweden ranks 64th, sitting between Saudi Arabia (63rd) and Switzerland (65th). 

Meanwhile, the World Happiness Report 2023 which displays the Ranking of Happiness based on a three-year-average 2020–2022 ranks Sweden 6th.

Last updated in October 2023. More country profiles here.

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