Belgium slips one place in the World Economic Forum 2014 ranking

Results of the Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 from the World Economic Forum 

As the Belgian partner in the annual WEF ranking of most competitive countries, Vlerick Business School is responsible for the survey of Belgian business managers. The ranking is based on an extensive survey of more than 14,000 business managers in 144 countries, combined with various objective data measuring each country’s competitive strength.


In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015, Belgium has slipped one place in the global ranking, making Belgium the 18th most competitive country in the world.

In addition to excellent health care and primary education (2nd place), an outstanding higher education and training system (5th place) with excellent math and science education (3rd place), and high-quality management schools (2nd place), our country benefits from a high level of technological readiness (14th place) and highly sophisticated (10th) and innovative (13th) businesses that operate in the high value added end of global value chains.

The major factors that pull Belgium back include the highly distortionary tax system, the regulatory burden and the very restrictive labour market regulation – all factors for which Belgium ranks below the 120th position.

Leo Sleuwaegen, professor at Vlerick Business School, explains: “The technological readiness, the creation and adoption of new technologies, and the global orientation of Belgian companies show their commitment to operate successfully in globally competitive markets. It is a pity that restrictive labour regulations, and the negative effect of taxation on incentives to invest and work, continue to hinder new entrepreneurship and the growth of local companies.

European framework

Belgium has been unable to close the gap with Germany (5th place), the Netherlands (8th place) and the UK (10th place), but stays ahead of Luxembourg (19th position) and France (23rd position). After a drop last year, France has remained stable in the ranking of this year. 

Spain (35th place) and Italy (49th place) have also kept the same positions as last year. Among the European countries that were severely hit by the economic crisis, Greece has moved up from 91st to 81st place and Portugal from 51st to 36th place. Both countries appear to have made significant strides in improving the functioning of their markets and the allocation of productive resources.

Except for Sweden, which fell from 6th to 10th position, the Nordic countries have been consolidating their strong positions since the financial and economic downturn in 2008.

Professor Wim Moesen notes: “Many mature economies suffer from similar drawbacks. However, some seem more able to handle them adequately. Illustrative cases are the Nordic countries, with Finland ranked 4th, Sweden 10th, Norway 11th and Denmark 13th.”

Changes at the top

Switzerland has kept its 1st place, which it has been occupying for the last five years. The country is characterised by an excellent infrastructure and labour market, and shows a strong capacity for innovation, coupled with a very sophisticated business culture.

Singapore has also maintained its 2nd position and is still the highest-ranked Asian country. Singapore is the only economy to feature in the top 3 in seven out of the 12 competitiveness pillars. The country tops the goods market efficiency pillar and places second in the labour market efficiency and financial market development pillars.

Both the US and Japan have been able to improve their positions markedly. The US has climbed to the 3rd position on the back of improvements in a number of areas, including some aspects of the institutional framework, and more positive perceptions regarding business sophistication and innovation. Japan has posted the largest improvement of the top 10 economies (up to 6th place), thanks to small improvements across the board, and with high scores on business sophistication and innovation, and with companies operating at the highest end of the value chain.

BRIC countries and Southeast Asia

The BRIC countries display various performances. China continues to lead the group, moving up one place to the 28th position. Russia (53rd) gained 11 positions. Brazil slipped down one position to 56th place in 2014. India fell down the ladder, from position 60 in 2013 to position 71 in 2014.

The developments in Southeast Asia are remarkable. With Singapore in 2nd place, the region’s five largest countries (ASEAN-5) – Malaysia (20th), Thailand (31st), Indonesia (34th), the Philippines (54th) and Vietnam (68th) – have all progressed in the rankings.

Ranking of most important countries in comparison with Belgium


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