Our selection shows the top ranked countries in 2000 and compares this with their historical performance.
At US$5,149, Switzerland, for example, was the largest OECD economy in terms of GDP output per head in 1970, and this includes adjustments for purchasing power parities (PPP) which eliminate the differences in price levels between countries. Switzerland saw its income per head increase sixfold to more than US$30,000 in 2000. But by this time, it was displaced by Luxembourg and the United States, with per capita GDP at more than US$46,000 and US$35,000 respectively; both had incomes around the US$4-5000 range in 1970.
Only Luxembourg, Switzerland and the US were in the top five OECD economies for GDP per capita throughout the last 40 years. But the fastest growth was in Korea: up twentyfold from little more than US$700 in 1970 to US$15,000 in 2000. And even among the top five economies, the pecking order has changed over the years. Norway ranked third in 2000 with per capita GDP of some US$30,000, but in 1970 it was in 18th position with just under US$3,000. And Denmark, in fifth place in 2000 at US$29,500, was in eighth position 30 years earlier with US$3,700.
©OECD Observer No 235, December 2002