What does it mean for a nation to be rich or poor at a time of global pandemic? GDP per capita adjusted for relative purchasing power gives us an idea, albeit an imperfect one.

Author: Luca Ventura
Luxembourg on the left is the world's richest country and Burundi on the right is the poorest.

Would you rather be rich in a poor country or poor in a rich one? Measuring how rich a country is not that easy (spoiler: it is not just about the GDP). Measuring how rich you are depends to a large degree on how rich and poor countries are defined.

If we simply consider a nation's gross domestic product—the sum of all goods and services produced by a country during one year—then we would have to conclude that the richest nations are exactly the ones with the largest GDP: United States, China, Japan, Germany. But how could the economies, for example, of Singapore or Luxembourg ever match that of such powerhouses when they are no more than small dots on the world map?

Another problem with GDP is that it does not measure wealth distribution. That is why a more accurate representation of people’s living conditions begins with dividing a nation's GDP by the number of people that live there: per capita GDP and its growth rate tell us much more about the social wealth potentially available to each person and whether this wealth is either increasing or decreasing over time.

Click here to read more about the world's poorest countries.    Click here to read more details about the world's richest countries.

However, using per capita GDP still poses a problem: the very same income can buy very little in some countries and go much further in others where basic necessities—food, clothing, shelter, or healthcare—cost far less. To gauge how a country’s citizens are wealthy it is necessary to understand how much they can buy. That is why, when comparing per capita GDP across countries, the GDP should be adjusted for purchasing power parity, which helps us take into account the inflation rates and the price of goods and services in each given place.

In conclusion, then, when considering whether it is better to be rich in a poor country or poor in a rich one, the best chance of enjoying a superior standard of living is to reside in a richer nation no matter where a person falls on the income distribution scale.  The coronavirus pandemic proved it most strikingly. Low-income workers, often migrants, living in very wealthy nations suddenly found themselves unemployed, homeless and stranded. By contrast, some poor and developing nations were spared, or cleverly prevented, the worst health and socio-economic effects of the outbreak, allowing their citizens to continue their lives in a mostly unchanged way. Whether you are rich or you are poor, these—indeed—are very strange and frightening times.


Rank

Country

GDP-PPP ($)

1 Luxembourg 126,569
2 Ireland 111,360
3 Singapore 107,677
4 Qatar 100,037
5 Switzerland 78,112
6 United Arab Emirates 74,245
7 Norway 69,859
8 United Staes 69,375
9 Macao SAR 67,475
10 Brunei Darussalam 65,675
11 San Marino 65,446
12 Hong Kong SAR 65,403
13 Denmark 63,405
14 Netherlands 61,816
15 Taiwan Province of China 61,371
16 Austria 59,406
17 Iceland 59,268
18 Germany 58,150
19 Sweden 57,425
20 Belgium 55,919
21 Andorra 55,764
22 Australia 55,492
23 Bahrain 53,128
24 Canada 53,089
25 Finland 53,084
26 France 50,876
27 Saudi Arabia 48,908
28 United Kingdom 48,693
29 South Korea 48,309
30 Malta 47,152
31 New Zealand 45,880
32 Italy 45,267
33 Israel 44,966
34 Japan 44,935
35 Kuwait 44,609
36 Czech Republic 43,714
37 Slovenia 43,206
38 Cyprus 42,832
39 Lithuania 42,091
40 Spain 42,074
41 Estonia 41,892
42 Poland 37,323
43 Puerto Rico 37,170
44 Hungary 36,849
45 Portugal 36,543
46 Slovak Republic 35,547
47 Aruba 34,902
48 The Bahamas 34,732
49 Latvia 34,169
50 Turkey 33,963
51 Romania 33,833
52 Oman 32,327
53 Greece 31,821
54 Croatia 31,112
55 Panama 30,889
56 Russia 30,431
57 Malaysia 29,048
58 Seychelles 28,060
59 Kazakhstan 28,043
60 Chile 26,513
61 Bulgaria 25,847
62 Trinidad and Tobago 25,526
63 Guyana 24,494
64 St. Kitts and Nevis 24,236
65 Uruguay 23,869
66 Maldives 23,838
67 Argentina 22,892
68 Mauritius 22,311
69 Costa Rica 21,592
70 Belarus 21,467
71 Montenegro 21,387
72 Serbia 21,243
73 Dominican Republic 20,944
74 Mexico 20,820
75 China 19,090
76 Thailand 19,028
77 Antigua and Barbuda 18,801
78 Equatorial Guinea 18,698
79 North Macedonia 18,069
80 Botswana 17,163
81 Suriname 16,793
82 Georgia 16,590
83 Gabon 16,559
84 Bosnia and Herzegovina 16,302
85 Grenada 16,288
86 Brazil 16,169
87 Colombia 15,922
88 Albania 15,487
89 Turkmenistan 15,347
90 Azerbaijan 15,299
91 Armenia 14,701
92 Moldova 14,258
93 South Africa 14,239
94 Barbados 14,224
95 Ukraine 14,146
96 Sri Lanka 14,123
97 Iran 13,993
98 St. Lucia 13,739
99 Paraguay 13,724
100 Libya 13,489
101 Egypt 13,422
102 Peru 13,410
103 Indonesia 12,967
104 Dominica 12,792
105 Mongolia 12,671
106 Kosovo 12,546
107 St. Vincent and the Grenadines 12,395
108 Palau 12,228
109 Bhutan 12,135
110 Fiji 11,902
111 Algeria 11,829
112 Vietnam 11,608
113 Equador 11,529
114 Jordan 10,821
115 Jamaica 10,815
116 Tunisia 10,720
117 Iraq 10,415
118 Nauru 10,167
119 Namibia 9,616
120 El Salvador 9,551
121 Eswatini 9,409
122 Bolivia 8,901
123 Philippines 8,900
124 Guatemala 8,895
125 Uzbekistan 8,452
126 Lao P.D.R. 8,444
127 Morocco 8,338
128 India 7,314
129 Angola 6,820
130 Cabo Verde 6,779
131 Belize 6,738
132 Tonga 6,361
133 Mauritania 6,293
134 Djibouti 6,255
135 Ghana 6,190
136 Nicaragua 6,133
137 Honduras 5,767
138 Bangladesh 5,733
139 Côte d'Ivoire 5,724
140 West Bank and Gaza 5,662
141 Samoa 5,541
142 Pakistan 5,447
143 Kenya 5,407
144 Nigeria 5,377
145 Tuvalu 5,289
146 Kyrgyz Republic 5,187
147 Venezuela 5,163
148 Cambodia 4,930
149 Myanmar 4,426
150 São Tomé and Príncipe 4,402
151 Republic of Congo 4,288
152 Nepal 4,215
153 Sudan 4,173
154 Papua New Guinea 3,936
155 Tajikistan 3,923
156 Marshall Islands 3,877
157 Cameroon 3,860
158 Benin 3,720
159 Senegal 3,699
160 Micronesia 3,441
161 Zambia 3,410
162 Comoros 3,120
163 Timor-Leste 3,106
164 Tanzania 3,062
165 Haiti 3,049
166 Ethiopia 3,024
167 Guinea 2,818
168 Lesotho 2,761
169 Uganda 2,729
170 Vanuatu 2,725
171 Mali 2,522
172 Guinea-Biissau 2,483
173 Burkina Faso 2,444
174 Solomon Islands 2,410
175 Rwanda 2,410
176 Zimbabwe 2,408
177 The Gambia 2,399
178 Togo 2,353
179 Kribati 2,281
180 Eritrea 1,911
181 Yemen 1,827
182 Sierra Leone 1,809
183 Chad 1,637
184 Madagascar 1,630
185 Liberia 1,623
186 Malawi 1,503
187 Niger 1,355
188 Mozambique 1,338
189 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,203
190 Central African Republic 996
191 Somalia 953
192 Burundi 779

Source: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook October 2021. Values are expressed in current international dollars, reflecting the corresponding exchange rates and PPP adjustments.