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Australia falls out of top 10 of key global ranking

New Zealand has leapfrogged Australia on a key global ranking. One big issue has seen us fall out of the top 10 of a ranking of most powerful national brands.

A declining quality of life and high housing costs has seen Australia lose ground in a global country ranking.

Australia has slipped out of the top 10 of a worldwide league table which measures perceptions of the strength of national “brands” on a range of metrics including business potential, local values and tourism strength.

Globally, New Zealand is now seen in a more positive light to Australia which has joined the United States and the United Kingdom in tumbling down the table.

One of the report’s authors said while the country fared well in terms of tourism, the sinking quality of life was acting as a “handbrake” on Australia’s future.

However, when it comes to cities rather than countries, Sydney has seen its world ranking rise in the same survey, cracking the top 20 most influential global metropolises.

Australia falls out of top 10 of key global ranking

Australia has slipped out of the top 10 most powerful national brands. But Sydney is now in the top 20 of most influential cities. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAPSource:AAP

The FutureBrand Country Index assess the brand value of a country based on benchmarks such as the prestige of products made in that country, environmental efforts, even the civility of national politics.

Ranked 15, Australia is placed lower in the table than its World Bank ranking which measures gross domestic product. In terms of GDP, which looks at economic output, Australia is the 14th wealthiest nation.

Asia Pacific chief executive officer of marketing firm FutureBrand, Richard Curtis, said traditional metrics of nations were outdated.

“Historically countries always measured by GDP but we live in a complex world where there a range of issues from healthcare to education, gun rights to the environment, so to measure a country by alone GDP is too narrow.”

Mr Curtis, whose company has worked to burnish the reputations of places as diverse as Peru and Tahiti, said having a positive national brand can boost tourism, business investment and even encourage people to choose one country’s products over another.

The top five nations in the FutureBrand Country Index. Australia is at number 15, down seven places. Picture: FutureBrandSource:Supplied

Japan topped the country brand list, replicating its success in the last index which was published in 2014.

The report’s authors said the positive associations with Japanese brands — such as Sony and Toyota — as well as its increasingly desirability as a place to visit helped it take the top spot.

“Japan’s rich culture, which encompasses a favourable quality of life, natural beauty, and heritage, beckons visitors from around the globe.”

Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland rounded out the top five.

Slovakia was a big riser in the index due in part to its natural beauty, quality of life, and the introduction of a living wage. Turkey, Hungary and Romania also fared well.

Japan tops the national brand list with a strong showing for quality of life, tourism and business. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

“What comes out in this year’s study is the importance of quality of life and safety and stability which is essential if a country is to be seen as a great place to visit, live or invest,” Mr Curtis said.

“All the successful countries performed well in the perception of quality of life; but unfortunately Australia falls short with its higher cost of living.”

This metric was Australia’s big stumbling block that sent it tumbling down the ladder from eight in 2014.

While Australia scores well for tourism and a good place to do business, the perception of its quality of life outweighed the positives with house prices and increased homelessness singled out by the report.

Since the previous index, Australia has also seen a drop in perceptions of its healthcare and education standards, desirability as a place to live or study, environmental friendliness and safety and security. The term groups many of this together as “values”.

“Our values may be coming home to roost,” said Mr Curtis. “When you add all of these things, it does dilute Australia’s global perceptions. The challenge for Australia is how to take off the handbrake of the (declining) quality of life so we can be more effective as a country.”

Australia was outside the top 10 nations for perceptions of quality of life which dragged down its overall score. Picture: FutureBrandSource:Supplied

Australia and the UK saw declines on a range of quality for life perception scores while Slovakia and Finland rose on the list. Picture: FutureBrandSource:Supplied

Italy, the Netherlands and Finland have all leapfrogged Australia, as has New Zealand which now has the 11th best country brand.

“New Zealand has introduced a wellbeing budget, We can’t tell whether that will be a success but if we look towards those countries, like Japan and Norway, where (a positive) quality of life has long translated into a success we can only expect the same will play out for New Zealand,” said Mr Curtis.

The report said people were increasingly placing a premium “not on living richer, but on living a richer life” which meant making positive changes to their present situation rather than holding out for retirement.

The US and UK both saw significant drops in their overall standing which was partly blamed on a polarised political life in both countries.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s wellbeing budget could see the nation further climb the brand ranks. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

The report also looked at how globally influential individual cities were which provided a boost to Sydney.

While the US and UK may be flailing as country brands, their two biggest centres of New York and London respectively continue to beguile people worldwide who continue to perceive them as the globe’s most influential cities.

Sydney’s 18th position is up from 22 and is “no meagre gain,” the report stated. The Harbour City is now more influential than Toronto and Rome and only a touch less than Los Angeles. Despite scoring well on various liveability indexes, Melbourne doesn’t figure in the FutureBrand list, highlighting its lower brand recognition abroad than its NSW rival.

Despite the seemingly small sample size, 2500 respondents overall — only 10 per cent of which passed judgment on brand Australia, Mr Curtis said the findings were “statistically robust”.

However, Australia is placed higher on a number of other non-GDP global lists.

The United Nations’ World Happiness Report, which measures perceptions of wellbeing, places Australia 10th best globally.

While the Human Development Index which looks at income, life expectancy and education levels ranks only Switzerland and Norway higher than Australia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R). Both nations’ governments have been criticised for a creeping authoritarianism. Picture: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP.Source:AFP

Mr Curtis said big risers, like Turkey, Romania and Hungry, outperformed on heritage and culture metrics — an area that was an “untapped opportunity” for Australia.

But he conceded Hungary and Turkey were controversial choices to be seen as beacons for other nations. While democratic, both have been accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian, limiting the influence of political opponents while centralising power in their respective leaders.

“There’s never one perfect country; all of them have strengths and challenges and while the risers are not perfect, many are imperfect, they are improving global perceptions in specific areas and for them it’s heritage and culture,” said Mr Curtis.

“For Turkey, as much as it’s known for its politics it’s also building an incredible brand around its art.”

benedict.brook@news.com.au

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