Economic Freedom of the World: 2020 Annual Report

South Africa ranks 90th out of 162 countries and territories included in the Economic Freedom of the World: 2020 Annual Report, released today by the Free Market Foundation in conjunction with Canada’s Fraser Institute.

Last year, South Africa ranked 101st. The improved ranking this year results from a small positive movement in the SA rating, and the fact that countries such as Belarus, Ghana, Greece and Surname lost ground against South Africa in the rankings. In 2000 South Africa ranked 58th and was among the top 37% of the most economically free countries in the world.

Hong Kong and Singapore again top the index, continuing their streak as 1st and 2nd respectively. New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States, Australia, Mauritius, Georgia, Canada and Ireland round out the top 10.

The 10 lowest-rated countries are Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, Algeria, Iran, Angola, Libya, Sudan and Venezuela. Despotic countries such as North Korea and Cuba can’t be ranked due to lack of data.

Other notable rankings include Japan (20th), Germany (21st), Italy (51st), France (58th), Mexico (68th), Russia (89th), India (105th), Brazil (105th) and China (124th).

According to research in top peer-reviewed academic journals, people living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy greater prosperity, more political and civil liberties, and longer lives.

For example, countries in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $44,198 in 2018 compared to $5,754 for countries in the bottom quartile.

Moreover, in the top quartile, the average income of the poorest 10 per cent was $12,293 compared to $1,558 in the bottom quartile. Interestingly, the average income of the poorest 10 per cent in the most economically free countries is more than twice the average per-capita income in the least free countries.

“Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives,” McMahon said.

See the full report at

South Africa’s scores in key components of economic freedom (from 1 to 10 where a higher value indicates a higher level of economic freedom):

  • Size of government: changed to 6.11 from 5.77 in the last year’s report
  • Legal system and property rights: changed to 5.68 from 5.05
  • Access to sound money: changed to 8.20 from 8.17
  • Freedom to trade internationally: changed to 6.44 from 6.87
  • Regulation of credit, labour and business: changed to 7.24 from 7.20

“The harm caused to economies worldwide by the Covid-19 lockdowns will have to be restored when normality returns. The most rapid restoration possible will occur in countries and territories where the value of the Economic Freedom of the World Reports is fully realised and economic principles and policies drawn from them are implemented” said Eustace Davie, a director of the Free Market Foundation.