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How come Germany is no longer the 'World's Best Country?'

The magazine US News and World Report has downgraded Germany in its global ranking. DW's Carla Bleiker is shocked at the development but clings to the fact the country still seems the place to be for entrepreneurs.

We used to be cool. We had it all. And then some mountainous little nation came along and took it away. Germany no longer occupies top spot in the "Overall Best Countries Ranking" by American media company US News and World Report. Switzerland now claims that honor.

Germany has slipped to fourth place in the survey conducted in cooperation with the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and Y&R's BAV Consulting. We are even below Canada in second and Great Britain is in third place.

"People around the world were reacting to the fact that there was such systemic change," John Gerzema, chairman of Y&R's BAV Consulting said in a video about the survey results. "We see that when we look at the reactions: there was this flight toward stability, for neutrality." 

The ranking is based on a number of categories: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power and Quality of Life.

More than 21,000 people across the world were presented with 65 attributes that fell into these subcategories. Survey participants then decided how closely they associated these attributes with each country. The stronger the association, the higher the score.

Makes sense so far. But apparently, the folks over at US News and World Report have never heard of the saying "money can't buy you happiness." They compiled a subranking for each of the nine categories - and the weight assigned to each subranking when it came to compiling the overall ranking was based on how strongly a category was related to wealth.

In short: people voted on how strongly they associate a country with a certain characteristic. If that characteristic happened to be related to the gross domestic product purchasing power parity per capita, the score mattered a lot. If not, it didn't make too much of a dent in the ranking. The best countries, it seems, are rich countries.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the top dogs: Switzerland. A banking nation, where movers-and-shakers often took their riches to keep them safe from the prying eyes of tax inspectors. If you travel to Switzerland as a foreigner, you notice a few things very quickly. The mountains are pretty. The chocolate tastes divine. And everything, from groceries to bus tickets to those famous Swiss watches, is extremely expensive.

In affordability, Switzerland scored exactly zero points. Germany isn't doing that much better with a 0.3. But we have a couple of other things going for us.

In the category 'Well-Developed Public Education System,' Germany scored 9.8 out of ten. We're actually the third-best country to live in for education, according to the News and World Report ranking.

Another area where Germany is doing well is entrepreneurship. Deutschland tops this subcategory - first place with ten out of ten points! Participants acknowledged the country's well-developed infrastructure, skilled labor force and educated population.

The drop from first to fourth place comes from lower scores in the subcategories Open for Business, Citizenship and Quality of Life.

One country that has dropped three places in the ranking as well is the United States. They went from fourth to seventh.

"From what we can tell, that was largely tied to the results of the presidential election," Devon Haynie from the US News and World Report said. "About 75 percent of our survey respondents said that the election made them think worse of the United States."

President Trump's country is still doing extremely well in some of the subcategories. It was ranked as the most powerful country in the world and holds third place in the Cultural Influence as well as the Entrepreneurship category.

Watch video 04:17

Teenage entrepreneurs

The ranking also includes a number of more specific lists. Those who are interested can look up the best countries for green living, to start a business - and the best countries for women.

The top three for women, as decided per the 9,000 women who participated in the survey, are all Scandinavian nations. First place goes to Sweden, second to Denmark and third to Norway.

Gender equality plays a big role in Swedish society. US News and World Report points out that the concept is "enshrined in Sweden's education system, where nearly two-thirds of all university degrees are awarded to women, and in its parental leave policies, which give around three months of leave specifically to each parent."

So if you're thinking about booking a trip for next year's International Women's Day, head north!

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