Which countries are most similar to Australia? Some answers might surprise you

To know how Australia is performing, we want to compare ourselves to other countries. But which ones? There are 193 countries in the world, and they vary along numerous dimensions. Even within the club of rich and rich-ish countries – the OECD – there are 36 members, ranging from Mexico to Switzerland.

Given that countries can vary in so many ways – their system of government, level of income, and their openness to the world, to name a few – it’s not easy to form a view about which are most similar to Australia. That’s where data can help. If we define a few criteria to judge how similar countries are to one another, then adjust the weights given to those criteria to reflect what we think is most important, we can whittle down the countries of the world to the most similar.

The web app below lets you do just that. It will tell you which countries resemble Australia the most closely, based on a few high-level criteria and your choice of how to weight each criterion. For example, if you think labour productivity is really important when figuring out how similar countries are to one another, increase the weight on that criterion; if you think population size doesn’t matter at all, drop that weight to zero.

The results – if you weight all the criteria equally – are a mixture of the predictable and the surprising. No matter how you tinker with the weights, Canada and New Zealand end up being among the countries most similar to Australia. Switzerland and the UK, too, are quite similar to us. But some of the other countries that end up looking quite similar to Australia might surprise you – Estonia, Latvia, and Chile, for example.

Ultimately, there’s no one right answer to the question of which countries are most similar to Australia. But at Grattan Institute we’ve used this tool to help check our sense of which countries we should be comparing to Australia.