Citizens in the four largest Nordic countries enjoy peaceful, happy lives. The U.N.’s World Happiness Report ranks Denmark as the happiest nation in the world, followed by Finland and Norway. Sweden comes in close behind at seventh happiest. The Nordics have a strong rule of law. All four are among the six least corrupt countries, according to Transparency International.
IMD ranks the four major Nordic economies among the world’s 20 most competitive. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index also ranks them in its top 20, with Sweden and Finland ranking third and fourth, respectively. One factor driving the Nordics’ advanced competitiveness is their moderate corporate tax rates. All four nations have corporate tax rates near the OECD average of 24%, unlike the United States, which boasts the OECD’s highest corporate tax rate at 35%. And all four have strong reputations around the world, placing in the top 20 of Future Brand’s Country Brand Index.
Another contributor to Nordic success is the quality of the human resources in the region. Education and research are top-notch among the Nordics. Sweden and Finland topped the OECD’s ranking of R&D specialization, with Denmark coming in fifth. All four beat the U.S. in the rate of doctoral graduations. The strong knowledge base has spurred creativity and innovation. Finnish software developer Rovio created the Angry Birds franchise, which has become a worldwide phenomenon, spawning merchandise, a forthcoming cartoon, and, of course, more Angry Birds computer games.
But innovation in the Nordics isn’t confined to software. Companies like Norway’s Statoil are constantly developing leading-edge technologies. Statoil is one of the world’s most advanced oil and natural gas exploration companies and places a high value on innovation, purposefully developing technologies to improve oil and gas detection and extraction. Using new subsea gas compression technologies, Statoil will recover 12% more of the gas trapped in its Gullfaks field. Statoil is also working with its partners to develop an offshore drilling rig that will be 20% more efficient than conventional rigs.
The Nordics have built a number of Fortune Global 500 companies including AP Moller Maersk and Danske Bank Group in Denmark, Nokia in Finland, Statoil in Norway, and Volvo, Vattenfall, and L.M. Ericsson in Sweden. These companies have become major multinationals with the Nordic region as their home base.