Swiss

Switzerland

#1 in Best Countries Overall

Not Previously Ranked

Switzerland, officially called the Swiss Federation, is a small country in Central Europe made up of 16,000 square miles of glacier-carved Alps, lakes and valleys. It’s one of the world’s wealthiest countries, and has been well-known for centuries for its neutrality.

The Swiss Confederation was initially founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among cantons. In 1499, the Confederation became independent from the Holy Roman Empire. In 1848, a new constitution turned the Confederation into a centralized federal government, ending a period of conflict. Since then, the country has enjoyed relative tranquility.

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$701.0 billion GDP 8.3 million POPULATION $58,647 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Canada

#2 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2016

Canada takes up about two-fifths of the North American continent, making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia. The country is sparsely populated, with most of its 35.5 million residents living within 125 miles of the U.S. border. Canada’s expansive wilderness to the north plays a large role in Canadian identity, as does the country’s reputation of welcoming immigrants.

Although the Norse briefly settled in Canada during the 10th century, European exploration accelerated in the 1500s. France and Britain angled for control over the region, with the British cementing their dominance in 1763. The country was a collection of British colonies until it became a self-governing dominion in 1867.

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$1.8 trillion GDP 35.9 million POPULATION $45,602 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

United Kingdom

#3 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2016

The United Kingdom is a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence. Located off the northwest corner of Europe, the country includes the island of Great Britain – which contains England, Scotland and Wales – and the northern portion of the island of Ireland.

The year 2017 ushered in anxiety about the country’s role on the global stage, due to the public voting in the summer of 2016 to leave the European Union. The vote raises questions about the European Union, as well as thepolicies supporting the eurozone.

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$3.0 trillion GDP 65.1 million POPULATION $41,499 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Germany

#4 in Best Countries Overall

#1 out of 60 in 2016

Germany, the most populous nation in the European Union, possesses one of the largest economies in the world and has seen its role in the international community grow steadily since reunification. The Central European country borders nine nations, and its landscape varies, from the northern plains that reach to the North and Baltic seas to the Bavarian Alps in the south.

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$3.9 trillion GDP 81.4 million POPULATION $46,974 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Japan

#5 in Best Countries Overall

#7 out of 60 in 2016

Japan, one of the world’s most literate and technically advanced nations, is an East Asian country made up of four main islands. While most of Japan is covered by mountains and heavily wooded areas, the country’s roughly 126 million people lead a distinctly urban lifestyle. Long culturally influenced by its neighbors, today the country blends its ancient traditions with aspects of Western life.

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$4.6 trillion GDP 127.0 million POPULATION $38,142 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Sweden

#6 in Best Countries Overall

#5 out of 60 in 2016

The Kingdom of Sweden, flanked by Norway to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east, expands across much of the Scandinavian Peninsula and is one of the largest countries in the European Union by land mass. Capital city Stockholm was claimed in the 16th century, and border disputes through the Middle Ages established the modern-day nation.

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$571.1 billion GDP 9.8 million POPULATION $48,199 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

United States

#7 in Best Countries Overall

#4 out of 60 in 2016

The United States of America is a North American nation that is the world’s most dominant economic and military power. Likewise, its cultural imprint spans the world, led in large part by its popular culture expressed in music, movies and television. In 2016 the country elected Donald Trump president, whose campaign rhetoric raised questions around the world, including from the country’s closest allies, about the nation’s future course on the global stage.

Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. launched its War on Terror, including the Iraq War, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and other military strikes, including the 2011 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The war has had wide-reaching effects on the country’s politics, economy and global alliances that resonate to this day.

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$17.4 trillion GDP 321.4 million POPULATION $56,084 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Australia

#8 in Best Countries Overall

#6 out of 60 in 2016

The Commonwealth of Australia occupies the Australian continent. The country also includes some islands, most notably Tasmania. Indigenous people occupied the land for at least 40,000 years before the first British settlements of the 18th century.

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$1.5 trillion GDP 23.8 million POPULATION $47,644 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

France

#9 in Best Countries Overall

#8 out of 60 in 2016

It is difficult to overstate the influence France has on the world, both in the past and today. Located in Western Europe, France is one of the world’s oldest countries, and its reach extends around the globe through science, politics, economics and perhaps above all, culture.

Starting in the Middle Ages, France evolved through kingdom, empire and finally, into a republic. It was one of the first nations to champion the rights of the individual. France today is a democracy with a separation of power falling between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

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$2.8 trillion GDP 66.8 million POPULATION $41,476 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Norway

#10 in Best Countries Overall

Not Previously Ranked

The Kingdom of Norway is the westernmost country in the Scandinavian peninsula, made up mostly of mountainous terrain. Nearly all of its population lives in the south, surrounding the capital, Oslo. Norway’s coastline is made up of thousands of miles of fjords, bays and island shores.

The Norwegians developed a maritime culture, and were active throughout the Viking era, establishing settlements in Iceland and Greenland. For many years, Norway’s fate was tied to Denmark and Sweden. In 1905, Norway gained independence from Sweden through a referendum. The country was neutral during both World Wars but was nonetheless occupied by Nazi Germany for five years.

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$499.8 billion GDP 5.2 million POPULATION $68,592 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Netherlands

#11 in Best Countries Overall

#9 out of 60 in 2016

Situated along the fringes of Western Europe, the Netherlands is a coastal lowland freckled with windmills characteristic of its development around the water. Three major European rivers – the Rhine, Meuse and Schelde – run through neighbors Germany and Belgium into the nation’s busy ports.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands emerged in 1815 after years of Spanish and later French occupation. In 2010, a collection of island territories in the Caribbean known as the Dutch Antilles were disbanded, but Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten remain constituent countries within the Kingdom.

Known as Dutch, the people of the Netherlands have formed what has long been considered a tolerant society, though some politicians are increasingly voicing concerns over immigration and Islam.. In 2001, the country became the first to legalize same-sex marriage, and national stances on drugs, prostitution, euthanasia and abortion are liberal. Holland also boasts the highest concentration of museums in the world. It was the birthplace of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, as well as the microscope, telescope and thermometer.

More than 1,000 bridges and 20,000 miles of bike paths connect the densely populated nation, with most citizens concentrated in a grouping of cities along the coast, known as the Randstad. Much of the country is underwater, and the 40 million people that touch down in capital city Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport each year land more than a dozen feet below sea level.

The seat of the government is located about 40 miles southwest of the capital in The Hague. The Dutch operate under a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, within which there are two main political parties. In 2012, leaders of the two parties signed a cooperative coalition agreement, focused on improving health care, the housing market, the labor market, foreign policy and the energy sector.

[Explore the top universities in the Netherlands.]

Known for its tulips, this high-income, developed nation is one of the world’s leading exporters of agriculture, an industry that has become mostly mechanized. An open-market policy and prime transportation location help the Netherlands maintain a trade surplus, but the economy continues to recover from an expensive stimulus program designed to help it bounce back after the economic downturn in 2009.

The Netherlands is active in United Nations peacekeeping efforts and headquarters The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It was a founding member of NATO and the modern-day European Union, of which it has been quite vocally supportive.

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$879.3 billion GDP 16.9 million POPULATION $49,624 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Denmark

#12 in Best Countries Overall

#10 out of 60 in 2016

The Kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 10th century and includes two North Atlantic island nations, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Along with Sweden and Norway, it forms Scandinavia, a cultural region in Northern Europe.

Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, also serves as the country’s cultural and industrial hub. With a population of more than 1 million, Copenhagen is home to notable institutions such as the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Copenhagen also serves as a hub connecting Northern Europe with the rest of the world, with the largest international airport in Scandinavia, an active port, a subway system and the Oresund Bridge, connecting the city with Malmo, Sweden.

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$342.4 billion GDP 5.7 million POPULATION $45,723 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Finland

#13 in Best Countries Overall

Not Previously Ranked

Geography defines the history and culture of Nordic Finland, one of the most northern-reaching countries in the world. Bordered by Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, Finland and its vast stretches of heavily forested open land acts as a northern gate between West and East.

Finland is a bilingual country – Finnish and Swedish are both official languages.

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$272.2 billion GDP 5.5 million POPULATION $41,109 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

New Zealand

#14 in Best Countries Overall

#11 out of 60 in 2016

British and Polynesian influences course through picturesque New Zealand, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean southeast of Australia. Early Maori settlers ceded sovereignty to British invaders with the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and European settlers flooded in.

Today, 70 percent of Kiwis, a common term for the people of New Zealand after a native flightless bird, are of European descent. A sense of pride has surged among the Maori, the country’s first settlers who now account for about 14 percent, as homeland grievances become more openly addressed.

Though the British monarch remains head of state, New Zealand has operated under an independent parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister since its independence in 1907. The vast majority of its 4.5 million people are concentrated in the north island, with nearly one-third living in Auckland. But low density and scattered populations make for peaceful exploration of the nation’s impressive mountains and pristine beaches of “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movie fame.

New Zealand saw impressive growth and transformation in the decades following independence. The export market, abounding with dairy, sheep, beef, poultry, fruit, vegetables and wine, was opened beyond the United Kingdom, and manufacturing and tourism were expanded. Per capita income remains high and, at 7.4 percent, education expenditures as a percent of gross domestic product are some of the highest in the world.

[Explore the top universities in New Zealand.]

The Kiwi spirit and culture are personified by such notable natives as Sir Edmund Hillary who first climbed Mount Everest in 1953 and Lord Rutherford, who split the atom. The bungee jump, Hamilton Jet boat, referee’s whistle and frozen meat are also credited to New Zealanders.

Since 1980, New Zealand has been a nuclear free zone. It is a leader in peacekeeping and global security and party to key international organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Pacific Islands Forum.

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$200.0 billion GDP 4.6 million POPULATION $36,136 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Singapore

#15 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2016

Founded as a British trading colony in the 19th century, Singapore is a bustling metropolis in Southeast Asia and home to one of the world’s busiest ports. The vast majority of its 5.7 million citizens live on the eponymous capital island, and dozens of surrounding islands complete the city state.

Singapore gained self governance in 1959, and in 1963 joined the Federation of Malaysia. In 1965 it left the federation and became independent as the Republic of Singapore. Today, it operates under a conservative parliamentary republic that is world-renowned for its strict laws and tight regulation. While safety and security serve as a major point of pride, residents and visitors are subject to harsh penalties for chewing gum, littering and more.

One of Asia’s four economic tigers, Singapore has seen impressive growth in recent years as efficient manufacturing and production practices have made way for free-market innovation in the booming electronics and pharmaceutical industries. Gross domestic product per capita is high and unemployment is low, making Singapore one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Singapore is densely populated, with most citizens living in urban high-rises. The Singaporean government has forecasted exponential population growth in the coming decades, with immigrants expected to account for more than half of the population by 2030.

[Explore the top universities in Singapore.]

Space constraints coupled with rapid population growth contribute to concerns about the rising cost of living and income inequality. Conservation, land reclamation efforts and improved environment-friendly practices amid the urbanization and industrial pollution are also a focus.

Four official languages – Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil – cater to the diverse population of a nation that has been an important gateway for international trade. Many also speak Singlish, a slang dialect. Local cuisine blends elements of Chinese, Indian and Western traditions, among others, as do the architecture and local festivals.

Singapore headquarters the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and is a member of a number of additional international organizations, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

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$307.9 billion GDP 5.5 million POPULATION $85,382 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Italy

#16 in Best Countries Overall

#13 out of 60 in 2016

Italy is a south-central European country, whose boot-shaped borders extend into the Mediterranean Sea. The country’s historical cities, world-renowned cuisine and geographic beauty make it a popular destination for more than 40 million tourists each year. The nation is home to Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, and houses two countries within its borders – the Vatican and San Marino.

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$2.1 trillion GDP 60.8 million POPULATION $35,781 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Luxembourg

#17 in Best Countries Overall

#14 out of 60 in 2016

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a landlocked country in northern Europe with Belgium to the west, France to the south and Germany to the east. The country is one of the smallest in the world and the second-wealthiest after Qatar. Castles and churches dot its forests and rolling hills.

Luxembourg has fallen under the rule of many states and kingdoms since its emergence in the 10th century, but has always remained a distinct political unit. After years of control under the Hapsburgs, Luxembourg formed a union with the Netherlands in 1815. The country, whose boundaries have constricted over time, won independence in 1867.

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$64.9 billion GDP 569.7 thousand POPULATION $99,506 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Austria

#18 in Best Countries Overall

#12 out of 60 in 2016

Austria a culturally rich, high-income parliamentary democracy that hosts several key international organizations. Located in the heart of Central Europe, the modern Austrian state was shaped by the two world wars of the 20th century.

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$436.9 billion GDP 8.6 million POPULATION $46,986 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Spain

#19 in Best Countries Overall

#16 out of 60 in 2016

A number of independent kingdoms united in 1492 to form the Kingdom of Spain, a cultural patchwork that continues to shape the modern nation’s dynamic identity. Spain comprises much of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal on the southwestern edge of Europe. It also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and two enclaves in North Africa.

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$1.4 trillion GDP 46.4 million POPULATION $34,861 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

China

#20 in Best Countries Overall

#17 out of 60 in 2016

Home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, China has been ruled by the Communist Party since 1949, when the nation was established as the People’s Republic of China. The country is the world’s most populous and is considered the second-largest by land mass.

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$10.4 trillion GDP 1.4 billion POPULATION $14,340 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Ireland

#21 in Best Countries Overall

#18 out of 60 in 2016

The Republic of Ireland is an island nation in the Atlantic Ocean, separated from Britain on the east by the Irish Sea. Nicknamed the Emerald Isle for its well-watered grasslands, the country is known for its rich cultural traditions, lively pub scene and its struggles for independence. The country comprises five-sixths of the island of Ireland – the remaining sixth is Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom.

Irish culture has been largely influenced by the Celtic tribes who reached Ireland around the 6th century B.C. In the following centuries the country endured invasions by the Vikings, Normans and British. After a bloody fight for independence and civil war in the early 20th century, Ireland became a republic in 1949.

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$250.8 billion GDP 4.6 million POPULATION $65,806 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

United Arab Emirates

#22 in Best Countries Overall

Not Previously Ranked

The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is a federation of seven emirates on the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula. The country, wedged between between Oman and Saudi Arabia, has rocky desert, wetlands, waterless mountains and coastlines that stretch along the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.

The emirates that currently comprise the UAE were known as the Trucial States in the 19th century as a result of a series of agreements with Great Britain. In 1971, six of these states merged to form the UAE; a seventh joined in 1972.

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$399.5 billion GDP 9.2 million POPULATION $67,217 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

South Korea

#23 in Best Countries Overall

#19 out of 60 in 2016

South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, is a nation in eastern Asia with a long history of conflict that occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula.

Liberated from Japan in 1945 at the end of World War II, South Korea was invaded by communist forces in North Korea a few years later. Aid requested by the United Nations helped end the three-year war and support the south on its way to democracy. A critical divide between the two nations along the center of the peninsula remains.

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$1.4 trillion GDP 50.6 million POPULATION $36,612 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Portugal

#24 in Best Countries Overall

#23 out of 60 in 2016

Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula and flanked by Spain to the east, Portugal is a nation with its gaze turned outward. Its history is steeped in discovery and exploration, beginning with early leaders that, after ousting Celtic and Moorish settlers in the 12th century, focused on building their kingdom beyond continental borders.

The westernmost nation of continental Europe used its maritime strength to colonize and forge trade routes to India, China, Japan and the coasts of Africa. Such legendary explorers as Bartholomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan sailed under Portuguese masts throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, their journeys blessed by ambitious monarchs. Eighty percent of Portugal’s current population is Roman Catholic.

The Discovery Age giant was thrown into economic turmoil after an earthquake ravaged the capital, Lisbon, in 1755, a fall that Portugal has never quite recovered from. Largely dependent on the success of its colonies, the nation’s strained economy was pushed into steeper decline with the independence of Brazil, its wealthiest colony, in 1822 and the flood of emigrants returning home as other African and Asian colonies were relinquished through the next century.

Financial strife continues to haunt Portugal. The nation’s budget deficit, while decreasing, is well above the European Union’s accepted rate, and financial assistance received from the European Commission and International Monetary Fund in 2011 is still being repaid. The country’s gross domestic product per capita is one of the lowest among wealthy nations, and unemployment rates are high in this heavily service-based economy. Long stretches of beach, a mild climate and 15 UNESCO Heritage Sites make Portugal an increasingly popular place to visit.

Militaristic dictatorships that had taken advantage of a nation in crisis were finally overturned in 1974, and a democracy was established. Portugal released its last-standing colony, Macau, to China in 1999, and the once vast global empire has been reduced to a nation of about 10 million residents, heavily concentrated around Lisbon and the nearby coastal region.

[Explore the top universities in Portugal.]

Portugal is a founding member of NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Free Trade Association. It is also a member of the World Bank and World Trade Organization.

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$230.1 billion GDP 10.3 million POPULATION $27,885 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

India

#25 in Best Countries Overall

#22 out of 60 in 2016

Located in Southeast Asia, India sits on a peninsula that extends between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The country, the birthplace of Hinduism and Buddhism, is the world’s second most-populous nation after China, and has roughly one-sixth of the world’s population

For many years of its long history, India faced incursions from the north by Turks, Arabs, Persians and others. By the 19th century, Great Britain became the dominant power on the subcontinent. After years of nonviolent struggle against British rule, India gained its independence in 1947.

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$2.0 trillion GDP 1.3 billion POPULATION $6,187 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Thailand

#26 in Best Countries Overall

#21 out of 60 in 2016

Thailand, which translates to “land of the free,” is the only Southeast Asian nation that did not encounter European colonization. Located just above the equator, the nation is wedged into the Indochina peninsula with neighbors Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia and has an arm that extends out to Malaysia.

Originally known as Siam, the kingdom was unified in the mid-14th century and became a constitutional monarchy in 1932 after a nonviolent revolution. Recurring coups have since escalated into large-scale political turmoil spurred by party division and grievances against leaders, and in 2014, the government was throw into interim military rule.

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$404.8 billion GDP 68.0 million POPULATION $16,130 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Russia

#27 in Best Countries Overall

#24 out of 60 in 2016

The scale of Russia is difficult to imagine. It is the world’s largest country by land mass – nearly twice as big as Canada, the world’s second-largest nation – and covers all of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe. It shares land borders with more than a dozen countries, and shares sea borders with Japan and the United States.

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$1.9 trillion GDP 144.1 million POPULATION $25,965 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Brazil

#28 in Best Countries Overall

#20 out of 60 in 2016

Occupying half of South America’s land mass, Brazil is the giant of the continent – both in size and in population. Brazil’s history is filled with economic turmoil, veering from boom to bust, and its culture is a melting pot that has traditionally welcomed the world.

Brazil is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. However, the country in the 21st century confronts serious questions touching on poverty, inequality, governance and the environment.

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$2.3 trillion GDP 207.8 million POPULATION $15,646 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Greece

#29 in Best Countries Overall

#26 out of 60 in 2016

Located in southeastern Europe, Greece as an independent nation is young, existing since the 19th century. Its civilization, however, is one of history’s oldest and most influential, credited with creating the concept of democracy as well as the ancient Olympic Games, and laying Western foundations in science, the arts and philosophy.

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$235.6 billion GDP 10.8 million POPULATION $26,391 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

Israel

#30 in Best Countries Overall

#25 out of 60 in 2016

Israel, the only Jewish nation in the world, is a small country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. For its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs. The country has a strong economy, landmarks of significance to several religions and strained relationships with many of its Arab neighbors.

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$305.7 billion GDP 8.4 million POPULATION $34,054 GDP PER CAPITA, PPP

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