Global Economic Performance in 2023: Surprising Winners and Losers

Global Economic Performance in 2023: Surprising Winners and Losers

Greece Tops the Charts, while Northern European Countries Lag Behind

Contrary to expectations, the global economy defied predictions of a recession in 2023, with a projected 3% growth in global GDP. Job markets have remained stable, inflation is on the decline, and stock markets have experienced a remarkable 20% rise. However, these aggregate figures mask significant variations among countries. The Economist has analyzed five key economic and financial indicators for 35 mostly affluent nations, ranking them based on their performance. This article explores the surprising results and sheds light on the factors contributing to the success or struggles of different economies.

Greece’s Remarkable Turnaround

For the second consecutive year, Greece has emerged as the top performer on the economic charts, defying its reputation for mismanagement. Alongside Greece, several standout performers hail from the Americas, with the United States securing the third spot. Canada and Chile are not far behind. In contrast, several northern European countries, including Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Finland, find themselves at the bottom of the rankings.

Tackling Inflation Challenges

Inflation was a major concern in 2023, prompting central banks worldwide to take action. The first measure examines “core” inflation, excluding volatile components like energy and food, providing insights into underlying inflationary pressures. Japan and South Korea have successfully kept prices under control, while Switzerland experienced a mere 1.3% year-on-year increase in core prices. However, many European countries, including Hungary and Finland, continue to grapple with significant inflationary pressures.

Declining Inflation Breadth

In most countries, inflation is gradually becoming less entrenched, as indicated by the “inflation breadth” measure. This metric calculates the share of items in the consumer price basket where prices rise by more than 2% year on year. Countries such as Chile and South Korea, which implemented aggressive interest rate hikes in 2022, are now reaping the benefits. Inflation breadth in South Korea has dropped from 73% to 60%, while the decline has been even sharper in the United States and Canada.

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GDP and Employment Performance

Growth in employment and GDP provides insights into how well economies are delivering for ordinary people. While no country experienced exceptional performance in 2023, only a small minority saw a decline in GDP. Ireland faced the largest drop of 4.1%, although measurement issues with Irish GDP should be considered. Britain and Germany also struggled, with Germany facing challenges from an energy price shock and increased competition from Chinese car imports. In contrast, the United States performed well in both GDP and employment, benefiting from record-high energy production and fiscal stimulus measures. Canada also saw significant employment growth, while Israel, despite its conflict with Hamas, secured a respectable fourth place in the overall rankings.

Stock Market Performance

Contrary to expectations, the American stock market, filled with firms poised to benefit from artificial intelligence advancements, performed only moderately when adjusted for inflation. The Australian stock market, dominated by commodities firms adjusting to lower prices in 2022, underperformed. Finland experienced a slump in share prices, while Japan’s firms enjoyed a renaissance, making its stock market one of the best performers, with a real-term increase of nearly 20%.


The global economic landscape in 2023 has defied expectations, with Greece emerging as the surprising top performer for the second year in a row. While some countries in the Americas, such as the United States, Canada, and Chile, have fared well, several northern European nations, including Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Finland, have struggled. Tackling inflation has been a significant challenge, with varying success among countries. GDP and employment growth have been modest overall, with the United States leading the way. Stock market performance has also seen unexpected patterns, with Japan experiencing a renaissance while the American and Australian markets underperformed. These diverse outcomes highlight the complex interplay of factors shaping the global economy and offer valuable insights for policymakers and investors alike.

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