Sweden, known for its generous social benefits and commitment to gender equality, is considered the most reputable country in the world, according to an annual ranking by Reputation Institute.
Sweden rose from third place in 2017 to first place this year, a move Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said signals that equality and freedom are key priorities for the Scandinavian country.
“I am convinced that this result stems from the fact that our social model creates not only growth but also freedom, equality and security,” said Löfven in a statement. “More and more people understand that inequality is a major obstacle for economic development in the world.”
Following Sweden this year are Finland, Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands to round out the top 10 most reputable countries.
The ranking released Thursday surveys more than 58,000 people in France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia on the 55 largest countries by gross domestic product. It examines ethics and perception of corruption, aesthetic-beauty and “feel-good” factor, according to Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer at Reputation Institute.
The study also measures perceptions of the most progressive social and economic policies, according to Reputation Institute.
Sweden’s acceptance of hundreds of thousands of refugees was also a factor in the country’s high score. Hahn-Griffiths also credited the Swedish Institute, a public agency that communicates Sweden’s culture and encourages tourists to visit the country, for improving its score.
“The more you can integrate around a common theme, cultural values, around a common backstory on what your country stands for, the more effective the message, and ultimately the more powerfully that will be translated into your reputation,” Hahn-Griffiths said.
Finland moved from the seventh most reputable country to the second most reputable country this year, receiving a score of 81.6. Greece saw the largest reputation increase, jumping from 62.5 last year to 64.7 this year, making it the 22nd most reputable country in the world. This shift was motivated by providing an “appealing environment” to tourists and other visitors to the country, according to the rankings.
The United States earned a score of 56.4 in this year’s reputation rankings as the 34th most reputable country. Though the U.S. had strong scores economically in fostering “successful brands” and being “technologically advanced,” the U.S. lost points on “perceptions of ethics, effective government and safety,” according to Reputation Institute.
This year’s ranking shows an increase in the U.S.’s reputation around the world. Last year, the U.S. was the world’s 38th most reputable, scoring a 54.7. However, the U.S.’s reputation among Americans has dropped 7 points since President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
A country’s reputation has a significant impact on its tourism and trade revenue. For every one point increase in reputation, a country is likely to see a .9% increase in tourists per capita and a .3% increase in export rates, according to Reputation Institute.
The 10 least reputable countries in the rankings are Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Colombia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq. These countries scored lower on key elements of the survey such as having an ethical government, participating responsibly in the global community and offering an appealing lifestyle.
According to Hahn-Griffiths, today the survey data relies more on “intangibles,” or perceptions of a country’s political culture or ethics, than “tangibles,” like GDP, to calculate a country’s reputation ranking.
“What we used to call ‘touchy-feely’ things like the image of the company, the overall perception you have around what that company or country stands for have become disproportionately more important,” Hahn-Griffiths said.