Fraser Institute News Release: Canada falls out of top 10 freest places on Earth

TORONTO, Jan. 26, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For the first time since 2012, Canada does not rank among the top 10 freest countries worldwide, finds a new study released today by Canada’s Fraser Institute and the U.S.-based Cato Institute.

“During the pandemic, like other governments worldwide, governments in Canada restricted freedom of movement, expression, assembly and other freedoms even more than had in previous years,” said Fred McMahon, resident fellow at the Fraser Institute and co-author of this year’s Human Freedom Index.

The index measures personal freedom—the rule of law, safety and security, identity and relationships (i.e. the freedom to choose your relationship partner), freedom of movement, speech, assembly and religion—alongside economic freedom, the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions.

This year, Canada ranks as the 13th freest country in the world (based on 2020 data, the earliest available) compared to 6th in last year’s ranking (based on 2019 data).

Switzerland, once again, tops this year’s freedom ranking followed by New Zealand, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The five least-free countries are (in descending order) Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, Yemen and Syria.

While we take no position on the necessity of COVID policies, they unquestionably limited freedom worldwide. From 2019 to 2020, 94.3 per cent of the world’s population experienced a decline in freedom.

But even before the onset of COVID, freedom declined for 79 per cent of the world’s population between 2007, the highpoint for human freedom, and 2019.

Overall worldwide rankings for other significant countries include Japan (16), Germany (18), the United Kingdom (20), the United States (23), South Korea (30), France (42), Argentina (74), South Africa (77), Brazil (80), India (112), Russia (119), Nigeria (124) and China (152).

Regionally, Western Europe, North America (Canada and the United States) and Oceania have the highest levels of freedom while the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the lowest levels.

Crucially, people in freer countries are more prosperous than those in less-free countries. For example, the average per-capita income for the top-quartile countries on the index was US$48,644 compared to US$11,566 for the least-free quartile in 2020.

“When government limits the ability of people to move, assemble and speak freely, people are less able to the lives they want to live,” said Ian Vásquez, report co-author and director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

The complete index, a joint project of the Fraser Institute and the Cato Institute, is available as a free PDF download at The co-authors of the report are Ian Vasquez, Vice President, International Studies, Cato Institute, Ryan Murphy, associate professor, Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom, Southern Methodist University, and Guillermina Sutter Schneider, data scientist and research manager, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.

The 10 freest and the least-free countries in 2020:

The 10 freest jurisdictionsThe 10 least-free countries  
1. Switzerland156. Burundi
2. New Zealand157. Iraq
3. Estonia157. Somalia
4, Denmark159. Saudi Arabia
5. Ireland160. Sudan
6. Sweden161. Egypt
7. Iceland162. Iran
8. Finland163. Venezuela
9. Netherlands164. Yemen
10. Luxembourg165. Syria  

Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom
Fraser Institute

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit