Human Freedom Index Is Now Released

Hong Kong and Switzerland top the rankings of a new index released today that presents the state of human freedom in the world. The Human Freedom Index (HFI) is the most comprehensive measure of freedom ever created for a large number of countries around the globe. The index is co-published by the U.S.-based Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute in Canada, and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Germany. 

The index ranks 152 countries based on 76 indicators of personal, civil, and economic freedom, using data from 2008 to 2012, the most recent year sufficient data is available. The HFI captures the degree to which people are free to enjoy major freedoms such as freedom of speech, religion, association and assembly, as well as measures freedom of movement, women’s freedoms, crime and violence, and legal discrimination against same-sex relationships.

The authors of the study – Ian Vasquez, Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, and Tanja Porcnik, President of the Visio Institut based in Slovenia and Cato Institute adjunct scholar – measure  also the rule of law, which they consider “an essential condition of freedom that protects the individual from coercion.”

The top 10 jurisdictions in order are Hong Kong, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. Other notable countries are Chile (ranked 18th), United States (20th), Russia (111th), China (132nd), Zimbabwe (149), and Iran, which comes in last.

After Northern Europe, North America, and Western Europe, the fourth freest region in the world is Central Europe and the Baltics – a region that includes countries that were formerly socialist such as Estonia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania among others – showing that a lot has changed for the better in this part of the globe in the past 25 years,” said Porcnik.

Hong Kong is an outlier in our index since we find a strong relationship between human freedom and democracy, which we consider important but which is not measured in the index. The danger is that China’s efforts to limit democracy in Hong Kong will lead to increasing interference in the territory’s institutions, something we are already beginning to see, thereby reducing Hong Kong’s ranking,” added Vasquez. Even thought the Human Freedom Index does not measure democracy, it is expected that the next editions of the Human Freedom Index Hong Kong shall see a drop in score and ranking due to its decrease of civil freedom in the recent years.

The freest countries in the world by quartile enjoy much greater income per person (27.008 euro) compared to the rest (the average income of the next quartile is 2.354 euro. The U.S. performance is worrisome and shows that the United States can no longer claim to be the leading bastion of liberty in the world,” said Vasquez. “Freedom is inherently valuable and plays a central role in human progress, so it is worth measuring carefully,” continued Vasquez. “Over time, the Human Freedom Index could track not only specific gains and loses of freedom but also explore the complex ways in which freedom influences, and can be influenced by political regimes, economic development, and the whole range of indicators of human well-being.”

Download the full report here:


Visio Institut