UK jumps in global economic freedom index, but remains below pre-Covid levels

The UK’s position in the Economic Freedom of the World Report increased from 16th to ninth freest country between 2020 and 2021.

  • Economic freedom correlates with greater prosperity, more civil liberties, and longer lives.

  • Britain’s economic freedom remains below pre-Covid levels and all-time highs achieved in the early 2000s when the UK peaked as the world’s 6th freest country.

  • The UK’s performance on the size of government, sound money, and the regulatory burden has declined since before the pandemic.

The UK’s economic freedom has bounced back after unprecedented restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an index produced by the Fraser Institute and co-published today with the free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The report finds that the UK’s economic freedom ranking overtook countries like Japan, Canada, and the Czech Republic. However, the UK’s overall economic freedom is in decline compared to pre-pandemic.  In 2021, the UK scored 8.01 out of 10 on the economic freedom indicator, compared to 8.20 in 2019 and 8.65 in 2000.

The report finds that Britain’s business, labour market and financial regulations are becoming increasingly burdensome. With taxes and spending approaching a post-war high, the UK’s score on the size of government has also fallen since 2019.

If the UK scored as highly as it did before COVID-19, it would have placed fifth on the latest ranking, above countries like the United States, Ireland, and Australia.

Across the globe, Hong Kong has lost its place as the freest economy in the world for the first time. This results from declining scores on international trade, the rule of law, and the size of government since Chinese intervention in the region increased towards the end of the 2010s.

The number one spot is now occupied by Singapore, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Venezuela once again ranks last. Some despotic countries, such as North Korea and Cuba, can’t be ranked due to lack of data.

Alexander Hammond, IEA Free Trade Fellow and author of chapter five of the report, said:

“While it is excellent news that the UK climbed the rankings by seven places between 2020 and 2021, much of this increase can be attributed to Britain easing its COVID restrictions sooner than many of its counterparts. The UK’s overall economic score remains below its 2019 level and significantly behind the all-time highs we achieved in the early 2000s. 

“Perhaps most alarming is that the UK’s score in ‘Size of Government’ and ‘Regulation’ has declined significantly since 2019. This indicates that an independent British state, free from Brussels’ oversight, has become larger and more bureaucratic.”

Matthew Mitchel, Fraser Institute Senior Fellow, said:

“Hong Kong’s recent turn is an example of how economic freedom is intimately connected with civil and political freedom. The Chinese government’s aim was to crack down on political and civil dissent. These repressions, combined with the government’s efforts to control the private sector, inevitably led to diminished economic freedom. Hong Kong’s prosperity will likely suffer as a result.”

Fred McMahon, Fraser Institute Resident Fellow, said:

“Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives.”


Notes to Editors

Contact: [email protected] / 07763 365520

You can read a copy of the Economic Freedom of the World: 2023 Annual Report here:

In key components of economic freedom (from 1 to 10, where a higher value indicates a higher level of economic freedom), the United Kingdom scores:

  • Size of government: 6.10 (from 5.89 in 2020 and 6.55 in 2019)

  • Legal system and property rights: 7.99 (from 8.00 in 2020 and 7.94 in 2019)

  • Sound money: 9.49 (from 9.57 in 2020 and 9.68 in 2019)

  • Freedom to trade internationally: 8.71 (from 8.04 in 2020 and 8.56 in 2019)

  • Regulation of credit, labour, and business: 7.75 (from 7.58 in 2020 and 8.25 in 2019)

About the Economic Freedom Index

The Fraser Institute produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly 100 countries and territories.

Economic Freedom of the World measures how policies and institutions of countries support economic freedom. This year’s publication ranks 165 countries and territories. The report also updates data in earlier reports where data has been revised.

For more information on the Economic Freedom Network, datasets and previous Economic Freedom of the World reports, visit And you can ‘Like’ the Economic Freedom Network on Facebook at

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.