Davos Agenda

These are the 10 countries with the best social mobility

Assorted-color buildings near red boat docked on port during

Denmark ranks top of the World Economic Forum’s new Global Social Mobility Index. Image: Unsplash/Maksym Potapenko

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Formative Content
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Davos Agenda?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Social Innovation is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Denmark tops the World Economic Forum’s new Global Social Mobility Index.
  • 17 of the top 20 most socially mobile societies are in Europe.
  • The US is 27th while China is 45th and India is 76th.

Moving up the socio-economic ladder takes generations, but it happens much faster in some countries.

Denmark ranks top of the World Economic Forum’s new Global Social Mobility Index, which finds the five Nordic nations and parts of Europe outperform the rest of the world when it comes to giving everyone the chance to succeed.

The index reveals there are only a few nations with the right conditions to foster social mobility
The Global Social Mobility Index 2020 Image: World Economic Forum

If you were born into a poor family in Denmark, it would take at least two generations to reach the median income, or three in Sweden, Finland and Norway. In France it would take six generations, and nine in Brazil or South Africa.

Have you read?

The index assesses the current state of social mobility in 82 economies around the world, looking at factors such as healthcare, education, social protection, access to technology, fair wages and work opportunities.

It also estimates the cost of low social mobility in terms of lost economic growth – more than $1 billion over 10 years for China, and more than $850 million for the US.

Counting the monetary cost of low social mobility
The opportunity cost of low social mobility Image: World Economic Forum

There is huge disparity between the regions: 17 of the top 20 most socially mobile societies are in Europe, two are in Asia (Japan, 15th and Australia, 16th), and one (Canada 14th) is in North America.

Sub-Saharan Africa includes five of the bottom 10 countries in the index.

Within regions, there are also wide gaps between the best and worst performers. The US (27th) and Britain (21st) are lagging behind their peers.

Income mobility across generations
Income mobility across generations Image: World Economic Forum

Among the major developing economies, the Russian Federation is placed 39th, China is 45th, Brazil is 60th, Turkey ranks 64th, Mexico ranks 58th, India is 76th and South Africa is 77th.

The launch of the Global Social Mobility Report 2020 coincides with the Forum’s 50th Annual Meeting in Davos. This year’s theme is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”.

A recipe for social mobility?

The Nordic countries provide high quality and equitable education systems, strong social safety nets and inclusive institutions alongside job opportunities and good working conditions, the report says.

It’s an economic model it describes as “stakeholder capitalism”. In other words, one that takes into account the interests of all stakeholders, rather than corporate shareholders.

“Economies that follow a model of stakeholder capitalism perform better on the index than those focused on either shareholder capitalism or state capitalism,” the report says.

It calls for policies that combine economic growth, social mobility and environmental sustainability, particularly as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace.

The report urges governments to do more to level the playing field for all their citizens as technologies such as digital platforms, big data and automation continue to reduce demand for low-skilled work while disproportionately rewarding the highly skilled.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Davos AgendaSocial InnovationEconomic Progress
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.


Davos 2024 Opening Film

Andrea Willige

March 27, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum