Richard Willis's Blog

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The UK’s Place in the World

Ever since I taught Economics I have had an interest in economic stats and international comparisons. All too often we hear from some people that the UK is a small island and that we no longer count in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst the UK is no longer the biggest economy in the world (and hasn’t been for some time) we are still number 6 in the world and may overtake France for the number 5 spot. It would also not take very many years to outstrip Germany and indeed our per capita wealth ($38,360) is currently greater than Germany ($37,680).

China is of course powering up the international rankings with annual growth rates of 10%+ in recent years. Even this year with a reduced growth rate, it is expected to achieve growth of 8.4%. India is also growing rapidly and rising up the economic league table. This year it is likely to overtake Italy. The other two countries which comprise the so-called BRICs i.e. Brazil and Russia are not growing at the same rate but are still (more slowly) climbing up the table. The UK Coalition government has (rightly in my view) made it a priority to improve trading links with the BRIC countries.

Whilst China is undoubtedly growing apace it will be many years before she can overhaul the USA. The USA has been a dynamic economy for decades but is increasingly burdened by debt, which can only continue to be financed as long as the US Dollar remains the world’s investment currency of choice. China’s growth rate is likely to slow as it moves from rapid industrialisation to developing its service sector and higher value-added manufacturing industry. Its workers are also beginning to demand better standards of living which will raise the country’s cost-base relative to the West.

Here are the statistics for the top 20 world economies. The number in brackets is the population and the following figure is the US Dollar denominated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figure for 2011, according to the respected Economist magazine:

  1. USA (312.3m) – $14,996bn
  2. China (1,345.7m) – $6,460bn
  3. Japan (126.5m) – $5,621bn
  4. Germany (83.0m) – $3,127bn
  5. France (63.2m) – $2,490bn
  6. UK (62.7m) – $2,403bn
  7. Brazil (194.9m) – $2,052bn
  8. Italy (60.3m) – $1,888bn
  9. India (1,202.1m) – $1,832bn
  10. Russia (141.5m) – $1,737bn
  11. Canada (34.3m) – $1,616bn
  12. Spain (46.1m) – $1,337bn
  13. Australia (22.5m) – $1,190bn
  14. Mexico (113.8m) – $1,119bn
  15. South Korea (49.6m) – $1,094bn
  16. Indonesia (245.6m) – $806bn
  17. Turkey (74m) – $760bn
  18. Netherlands (16.6m) – $743bn
  19. Switzerland (7.9m) – $513bn
  20. Iran (75.9m) – $488bn

(Source: The Economist)

If readers are interested in the size of any particular country’s economy I would be happy to see if I can find that information. Sometimes it is surprising and reassuring to note that the UK is still one of the biggest economic powers in the World!


March 1, 2011 - Posted by | International


  1. If you listen to the doom and gloom emanating from the coalition Labour left us as good as bankrupt and in their current lazy terminology “maxed-out on the credit card”. So it is very good to learn that after 13 years of Labour rule we still command 6th place in the list of world economies. Credit where it is due or is this rating all down to the 9 months the coalition have been at the helm?

    Comment by Phil the Greek | March 2, 2011 | Reply

  2. I think that Labour can take full credit for 6th place. If we’d ditched them when we should have we’d be around the third or fourth place mark.

    Comment by Gideon Mack | March 2, 2011 | Reply

  3. Actually, Gideon, if you look at World Bank figures for the last 30 years we have always been 4th or 5th (we jostle up and down with France) until China went boom, and Goldman Sachs projections for 2050 indicate we will be 7th or 8th, depending on growth in India and Brazil. Per capita, in 1997 we were 19th, now we are 27th, having been overtaken by two tax havens and five oil states. Individual governments make very little difference to GDP rankings (unless the gross GDP is tiny) of any sort, as we live in a globalized capitalist economy.

    Comment by Jonny | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  4. “Goldman Sachs projections for 2050 indicate we will be 7th or 8th, depending on growth in India and Brazil” Jonny, hope you intend to be around to check that out…me, I very much hope so, even if this is just to hold you to account!! Gideon has a point though. Despite your attempt to wash it out with a lot of stats. Capitalism is what makes a country go and down the rankings. Look at China, been to Shanghai lately? You could mistake it for New York or Chicago

    Comment by Jazz | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  5. 6th place does not do it for me,we still live in a joke of a country,where we are ripped off every single day,food,petrol,house prices,low wages compared to everything going up around us,rubbish roads,6th place may feel nice for those who run the country but the majority of people live in the real world and know this country is a joke,anyway China may be growing,India may be growing but there is still millions of people in poverty

    Comment by Martin Warner | March 4, 2011 | Reply

  6. What does 6th place actually mean to the average man on the street,this country is a rip off to the average man(maybe thats why we are 6th)This country should try and put the Great back in Britain because Great left Britain years ago,low wages,high food prices,high fuel,high house prices,industry gone,rubbish roads,rubbish schools,family breakdowns,i could go on and on.What about China,Brazil,India and Russia,they may be more wealthy and have fancy financial disticts but millions of people who live there are really poor,all they care about is how they are going to survive day to day like the real people in the uk not how far they are up in a table

    Comment by Martin Warner | March 4, 2011 | Reply

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