How globalised is the world? And how globalised are we?

This question is being studied by researchers at the KOF Swiss Economic Institute, part of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. For their Index they analysed the degree of a nation’s economic, social and political globalisation – for example, according to trade data, financial flows, communication, travel habits, the proportion of the population born abroad or the number of international treaties. Even the number of McDonald’s and Ikea branches is considered. On a scale of 100, the higher the number, the more globalised. Smaller countries top the list; larger ones such as the USA or China, which thanks to their vast internal market rely less on foreign trade, follow some way behind.

Globalisation ranking

1. Netherlands 92.7
2. Ireland 91.6
3. Belgium 90.5
4. Austria 89.8
5. Switzerland 87.0
6. Singapore 86.9
7. Denmark 86.4
8. Sweden 85.9
9. Hungary 85.7
10. Canada 85.7
11. Finland 85.4
12. Portugal 85.1
13. Norway 84.2
14. Cyprus 84.1
15. Spain 83.7
16. Slovak Republic 83.6
17. Czech Republic 83.6
18. Luxemburg 83.5
19. France 82.6
20. Great Britain 82.0
21. Australia 81.9
22. Greece 80.4
23. Poland 79.9
24. Italy 79.6
25. Malaysia 79.1
26. Estonia 78.5
27. Germany 78.2
28. New Zealand 78.1
29. Lithuania 77.3
30. Bulgaria 77.2
31. Qatar 77.0
32. Slovenia 76.2
33. United Arab Emirates 75.9
34. USA 75.7


How globalised are we?

More than ever before – at least at the management level, says Sörge Drosten, director at the personnel firm Kienbaum Executive Consultants International. “Of course, in the 90s there were people who studied abroad for a while and there was international business. But that was only the beginning. Today the international aspect is featured on a totally different scale in people’s records. Even at middle-management level today you will find a lot of people who have done a stint in South America or Asia, who spent some years abroad, who have taken on international responsibility. And of course a medium-sized company operating in more than 70 countries, and which wants to understand its customers, sends its people all over the world. That has increased dramatically.”

‘My job involves travelling abroad’
Greece 59%
Spain 35%
Italy 32%
France 27%
Germany 21%
Norway 17%
Hungary 9%

‘I would like a job that requires trips abroad’
Italy 73%
Greece 66%
Spain 61%
France 56%
Norway 47%
Hungary 43%
Germany 36%

Source: Randstad Arbeitsbarometer, 1st quarter 2016

There are limits to this yearning to see foreign lands. In a recent essay Katharina Heuer and Christian Lorenz from the German Association for Personnel Management bemoaned the fact that: “As international trade increases in degree, from which Germany as export world champion derives massive benefits, in this country there is a decline in the readiness of staff, male and female, to accept a transfer to a far-off country, even if only for a brief time.

“German entrepreneurs and personnel managers complain that ever fewer specialists and executives are prepared to go to India, China, or South America for a period of some years,” Heuer and Lorenz wrote, noting that in many relationships now both partners are working and the “accompanying wife” of yesteryear is now a rarity. And, they note, after working or studying abroad for some years, many staff find their wanderlust has been sated.

So does it all boil down to “east, west, home’s best”? Nikola Sander, a population geographer researching migration at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, is amazed that Germans are so reluctant to budge. “Only 3% of the population annually move beyond the confines of their local district," she points out. While acknowledging that those aged 18 to 24 travel farther from their home for training or education than before, and that in certain occupations it is now assumed that they will move abroad for a while, she points out: “But at the same time there has been a clear drop in the mobility of those [aged] between 30 and 49.”

Global mobility has not increased, either. Measured at five-yearly intervals, about 0.6% of the world population has always moved from one country to another between 1990 and 2010.

“This consistency came as a great surprise to us,” says Sander. “You can see here that in this respect globalisation is limited to certain groups, such as students, expats, or workers moving to the Gulf states.”