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IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2009

Stress Test on Competitiveness: Denmark finishes first, the US comes 28th (but is still number one in the overall WCY ranking)

May 20, 2009

Based on the results of the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2009, IMD is pleased to announce an additional ranking – the Stress Test on Competitiveness. Denmark finishes in first place in the “Stress Test” rankings, an analysis of which countries are better equipped to fare through the financial crisis and improve their competitiveness in the near future. In other words, the test is future oriented – it focuses on exposure, readiness and resilience in a period of world recession.

Although the economic forecasts are still weak for this year, Denmark finishes first in part because of the strong resilience of its business and government and the long-established stability of its society. Other smaller countries (less than 30 million inhabitants) from Northern Europe and Southeast Asia also fare well.

“Smaller economies are often more fit to adapt and rebound in difficult times,” stated Professor Stéphane Garelli, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center. “Another explanation is that several of these nations have already undergone quite severe financial and real estate crises in the not so distant past and may have been more cautious in their policies. Qatar and Chile also display advantages to confront the crisis.”

Despite finishing first in the overall 2009 World Competitiveness Yearbook rankings, the United States comes in 28th position in the Stress Test, underlining the concern of the market with the depth of the crisis and the time that it will take to solve it.

Between the 18th and 30th positions in the Stress Test are the larger exporting nations led by China (18th), and which includes Taiwan (21st), Brazil (22nd), Germany (24th), Japan (26th) and Korea (29th). Ireland (25th) could have been higher in terms of resilience but the suddenness and the magnitude of the real estate and the financial crisis have probably taken the country aback.

The UK (34th) is in a disquieting position; just as is France (44th), Italy (47th) and Spain (50th), stressing how much the recovery in these countries may be hampered by structural rigidities. Finally, Russia in 51st position may not have had enough years of economic growth to consolidate the structure of its economy and to create the necessary buffer to cope with a crisis of this magnitude.

“In short, the Stress Test shows that smaller nations, which are export-oriented, resilient and with stable socio-political environments are better equipped to benefit immediately from the recovery,” concluded Professor Garelli. “However, only the good performance of the very large exporters such as the US, Germany, China or Japan will send a credible message to the world that the worst is over – a change that everybody will be able to believe in.” 

View the Stress Test Rankings

View the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2009 Overall Rankings


1) How different is the “Stress Test” from the World Competitiveness Yearbook ranking?

The scope and the time frame are not the same. The Stress Test is just a “test” and uses a selection of 20 criteria, very much forecast and future-oriented. The World Competitiveness ranking is based on 329 criteria, 2/3 of which are hard data and 1/3 opinion survey. It also takes into account the “established” history of competitiveness of nations accumulated over the years (for example in infrastructure, technology, etc.)

2) What is the methodology?

We have selected the relevant forecast and opinion survey criteria in the 2009 World Competitiveness Yearbook database and divided them into four categories: key forecasts for the economy in 2009 and opinions assessing the attitude; as well as the readiness and the resilience of government; business; and society in confronting the future (based on our Executive Opinion Survey completed by 3,960 respondents worldwide). The Stress Test is an aggregation of all these criteria according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook methodology.

3) How reliable is it?

The Stress Test is an early indicator and has the limit of any methodology based on forecasts and opinion surveys. It cannot replace the comprehensiveness or the extent of the World Competitiveness Yearbook ranking. On the other hand, it provides an interesting “glimpse” into the future.


The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) is the leading annual report on the competitiveness of nations and has been published by IMD since 1989. The Yearbook benchmarks the performance of the 57 most competitive countries. It measures the different facets of competitiveness, grouped into four factors (economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure). Accuracy is ensured by the collaboration of 54 Partner Institutes worldwide.

Professor Stéphane Garelli is the Director of the World Competitiveness Center. An authority on World Competitiveness, Professor Garelli teaches in IMD’s Orchestrating Winning Performance program (

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