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The competitiveness of nations in 2013 according to the findings of the World Economic Forum (WEF)

Pending marked economic recovery, France has slipped to 23rd place.
The level of performance is in line with the average for developed countries.

Edouard Mathieu1

Bertrand Moingeon2

The annual ranking of the World Economic Forum summarizes the performance of countries in wide-ranging areas, such as institutions, infrastructures and macroeconomic policy. In total there are twelve “pillars of competitiveness”. The data used comes primarily from a perception survey carried out during the spring in each country, by a partner institution, which in the case of France was HEC. The results are the combined average of the opinions expressed in the spring of 2013 and in the spring of 2012.

The ten leading countries are the same as last year, but with some minor changes, which reflect how strongly the countries concerned are coming out of the economic crisis. Switzerland remains in first place, just ahead of Singapore, who symbolize the rise of Asia. Finland is also progressing and is the first of the European Union countries, ahead of Germany. The United States have stopped losing ground for the first time in four years and have moved up to fifth place. China has ceased to progress in the rankings since last year, but even in 29th position is still at the same level as the average for the European Union. It is true to say that the results of the European Union are highly disparate. Five members figure in the top ten, whilst the countries most affected by the euro crises are ranked quite far behind, with Greece occupying 91st place.

France has slipped another two places this year, to 23rd position among the 144 countries surveyed. Given the minimal variances in the scores of the developed countries, it may be useful to take a more long term view of any progression.  In 2007 France was 18th with a slightly higher overall score than that of 2013 (5.18 compared to 5.05). European countries, like Belgium or Luxemburg, who have not experienced this erosion of performance, are now ahead of France. The same can be said of several emerging and booming economies such as Qatar.

Between 2007 and 2013, some of France’s relative strengths have been eroded while some of its weak points have been attenuated. All in all, the economic profile of France is closer and closer to the average for developed countries (see chart below).

In terms of healthcare and primary education, for instance, France is ranked 24th in 2013, whereas it was in 12th place at the beginning of the period. Similarly, assessments of virtually all aspects of the management of French companies have been adjusted downwards. Among others, these include the quality of local suppliers and the willingness to delegate authority. Conversely, France is making some progress in labor market efficiency, one of its traditional weak points, being ranked 71st in 2013 compared to 98th in 2007. Its score remains far behind that of the leader – Singapore – but not so far behind the average for developed countries.

As far as higher education and professional training are concerned, France is only in 24th place but it does have some areas of excellence. In particular, France is one of the world leaders for business schools, along with Switzerland and the United States. Switzerland is in first place again this year, but the scores given by company executives do not really succeed in separating the leaders. In fact the leaders alternatively occupy the number one spot from one year to the next, without being able to outdistance their rivals by more than half a point.

1 Associate researcher at HEC Executive Education

2 Professor and Deputy Dean at HEC Paris. Director of HEC Europe Institute and member of the GREGHEC, CNRS unit (UMR 2959)




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