The inequitable distribution of income is present at the global level where the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the top 10 economies adds up to over 66% of the world’s economy, and the top 15 economies add up to over 75%. The remaining 172 countries constitute only 25% of the world’s economy.
Here’s the list of the top 10 economies based on the criteria of GDP, current prices (U.S. dollars) which is simply known as nominal GDP. The rankings differ if the same list is prepared using the GDP based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP). As a general rule, developed countries have a smaller gap between their nominal GDP (i.e., current prices) and GDP based on PPP. The difference is greater in developing countries, which tend to have a higher GDP when valued on purchasing-power-parity basis. This list is based on IMF data, which is updated twice annually.
1. United States
The U.S. economy is the largest in the world in terms of nominal GDP (measured at current prices in U.S. dollars). The $17.95 trillion U.S. economy is approximately 24.5% of the gross world product. The United States is an economic superpower that is highly advanced in terms of technology and infrastructure and has abundant natural resources. However, the U.S. economy loses its spot as the number one economy by a slight margin to China when measured in terms of GDP based on PPP. In these terms, China’s GDP is $19.4 trillion and the U.S. GDP is $17.95 trillion. However, the U.S. is way ahead of China in terms of GDP per capita (PPP) - approximately $55,805 in the U.S. versus $14,107 in China.
China has transformed itself from a centrally planned closed economy in the 1970's to a manufacturing and exporting hub over the years. The Chinese economy is propelled by an equal contribution from manufacturing and services (45% each, approximately) with a 10% contribution by the agricultural sector. The Chinese economy overtook the U.S. economy in terms of GDP based on PPP. However, the difference between the economies in terms of nominal GDP remains large. China is currently a $10.98 trillion economy and has been growing at around 7% in the recent years, although that growth is starting to slow down.
Japan’s economy ranks third in terms of nominal GDP, while it slips to fourth spot when comparing the GDP by purchasing-power-parity. The economy has been facing hard times since 2008, when it was first showed recessionary symptoms. Though the government’s stimulus packages have helped the economy recover a bit, the massive earthquake in 2011 gave the fragile economy another jolt. Economic growth has hovered between 0.5–2% in recent times, but is forecasted to stay below 1% during the next six years. The nominal GDP of Japan is $4.12 trillion, its GDP (PPP) is $4.83 trillion, and its GDP (PPP) per capita is $38,054.
Germany is Europe’s largest and strongest economy. On the world scale, it ranks as the fourth largest economy in terms of nominal GDP. Germany’s economy is known for its exports of machinery, vehicles, household equipment, and chemicals. Germany has a skilled labor force, but the economy faces demographic challenges like most European nations. The size of its nominal GDP is $3.36 trillion, while its GDP in terms of purchasing-power-parity is $3.84 trillion. Germany’s GDP (PPP) per capita is $46,893, and the economy has moved at a moderate pace of 1-2% in recent years and is forecasted to stay that way.
5. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom, with a $2.85 trillion GDP, is the world’s fifth largest. The economy of the UK is primarily driven by services, as the sector contributes more than 75% of the GDP. With agriculture contributing a minimal 1%, manufacturing is the second most important contributor to GDP. Although agriculture is not a major contributor to GDP, 60% of its food needs is produced domestically, even though less than 2% of its labor force is employed in the sector. After the referendum in June 2016 when voters decided to leave the European Union, economic prospects for the UK are highly uncertain, and the UK and France may swap places. The country will operate under EU regulations and trade agreements for two years after the formal announcement of an exit to the European Council, in which time officials will work on a new trade agreement. Economists have estimated that a Brexit could result in a loss of anywhere from 2.2-9.5% of GDP, depending on the trade agreements replacing the current single market structure.
France, the most visited country in the world, is the sixth largest economy with a nominal GDP of $2.42 trillion. Its GDP in terms of PPP is around $2.65 trillion. France has a low poverty rate and high standard of living, which is reflected in its GDP (PPP) per capita of $41,180. The country is among the top exporters and importers in the world. France has experienced a slowdown over the past few years and the government is under immense pressure to rekindle the economy, as well as combat high unemployment which reached 10.35% in 2015. According to IMF forecasts the country's GDP growth rate is expected to rise over the next six years, and unemployment is expected to go down.
India ranks third in GDP in terms of purchasing-power-parity ($7.97 trillion), while its nominal GDP ($2.09 trillion) puts it in a seventh place. The country’s high population drags its GDP (PPP) per capita down to $6,162. India’s GDP is still dependent on agriculture (17%), compared to western countries. However, the services sector has picked up in recent years and now accounts for 57% of the GDP, while industry contributes 26%. The economy’s strength lies in a limited dependence on exports, high saving rates, favorable demographics, and a rising middle class. India recently overtook China as the fastest growing large economy.
Italy’s $1.16 trillion economy is the world’s eighth largest in terms of nominal GDP. Italy is among the prominent economies of the eurozone, but it has been impacted by the debt crisis in the region. The economy suffers from a huge public debt estimated to be about 135.8% of GDP, and its banking system is close to a collapse and in need of a bail-out/bail-in. The economy is also facing high unemployment, but saw a positive economic growth in 2015 for the first time since 2011. The government is working on various measures to boost the economy that has contracted in recent years. The GDP measured in purchasing-power-parity for the economy is estimated at $2.17 trillion, while its per capita GDP (PPP) is $35,708.
Brazil with its $1.77 trillion economy, it is the ninth largest economy by nominal GDP. The Brazilian economy has developed services, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors with each sector contributing around 68%, 26%, and 6% respectively. Brazil is one of the BRIC countries, and was projected to continue to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, the recession in 2015 caused Brazil to go from seventh to ninth place in the world economies ranking, with a negative growth rate of 3.8%. The IMF does not expect positive growth until 2018, and the unemployment rate is expected to grow over 3% – to 10.4% – over the same time period. The Brazilian GDP measured in purchasing-power-parity is $3.19 trillion, while its GDP per capita (PPP) is $15,614.
Canada pushed Russia off the list with a nominal GDP of $1.55 trillion. Canada has a highly service oriented economy, and has had solid growth in manufacturing as well as in the oil and petroleum sector since the Second World War. However, the country is very exposed to commodity prices, and the drop in oil prices kept the economy from growing more than 1.2% in 2015 (down from 2.5% the previous year). The GDP measured in purchasing-power parity is $1.6 trillion, and the GDP per capita (PPP) is $45,553.
The Bottom Line
Some other economies that are a part of the “trillion-dollar” club and have the potential to make it to the top 10 going ahead are South Korea ($1.38 trillion), Russia ($1.32 trillion), Australia ($1.22 trillion), Spain ($1.2 trillion), and Mexico ($1.14 trillion). The bottom four countries have been rearranged and Canada pushed out Russia which went from ninth to twelfth place (read more about Russia's economy here.)