At the national level, governmental officials must manage a country’s economic, political, and social situations, among many other things. Further complicating their work is potential corruption, which can be defined in a multitude of ways. The non-governmental organization Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) defines corruption as “abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”
The index, which has been published each year since 1995, ranks countries around the world by perceived corruption in the public sector. Many countries rank low in corruption, including Denmark, New Zealand, and Finland. However, many more are riddled with corrupt politicians according to the CPI, such as South Sudan, Syria, and Somalia as you can find on the map below.
View Countries by corruption in a full screen map
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) scores and ranks countries by their perceived levels of government corruption. A score of 0 indicates the most corrupt country, while a CPI of 99 means little corruption.
The 123 countries that scored between 0 and 49 in 2021 are therefore perceived as more corrupt. Yet while a score of 49 isn’t something to be proud of, it’s nothing compared to some of the absolute lowest-rated countries that you’ll see on the table below or when you group the map by the lowest 2021 Scores (“17 – 11” and “28 – 19”).
|Nation or Territory||2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)|
The table above shows the 11 most corrupt countries, according to the CPI. Of these, South Sudan is the worst. In 2012, it was reported that South Sudanese politicians had stolen $4 billion in government funds since the advent of self-rule in 2005. That said, South Sudan is hardly the only African country worth calling out. Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, and Burundi also rank high in corruption.
The rest of the table consists of mostly Asian countries, with Syria being the most corrupt of these. Syria is followed by Afghanistan, North Korea, Yemen, and Turkmenistan on the CPI. This leaves Venezuela, the only South American country to make the list.
But of course, the world’s not all corrupt, thanks to those on the other end of the spectrum.
South Sudan, Syria, and 121 other countries may have had CPIs of 0-49 in 2021 but there are 56 countries in the 50-99 range. Though there are far fewer of these non-corrupt countries, you can see the top of these on the list below.
- Denmark (88) CPI
- New Zealand (88)
- Finland (88)
- Singapore (85)
- Sweden (85)
- Norway (85)
- Switzerland (84)
- Netherlands (82)
- Luxembourg (81)
- Germany (80)
Including Denmark and Finland, 40% of the 10 least corrupt countries in the world are Nordic. Sweden and Norway are the other two Nordic countries with the same high CPI score (85 for both).
Expanding to continents, 8 out of 10 are in Europe. The Nordic countries are included in this, all four ranking higher than any of the other European countries in the top 10: Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany.
Meanwhile, New Zealand and Singapore round out the top 10 in Oceania and Asia, respectively. Singapore’s inclusion is perhaps the most notable, considering many of the most corrupt countries we discussed in the previous section were located on the same continent.
If you’re wondering where the U.S. falls, it has a CPI of 67, which, interestingly enough, is a six-point fall from 2012. Let’s dive more into these changes next.
As for changes through the years, you can sort the map by “10-Year Change: 2012-2021.” But it’s one thing to look at a snapshot—and another to see how it changed: all at once or gradually.
This is where charts come in handy, which we created using our inline charts tutorial. Now let’s take a look at the largest changes.
Seychelles, a collection of over 100 islands in the Indian Ocean, has the largest positive change (and largest overall change). In 2012, it had a CPI of 52, just narrowly missing the cutoff for corrupt countries. In 2021, Seychelles has a score of 70, ranking among the top X best. The largest change year-to-year was in 2017, as noted in its inline chart.
Meanwhile, the largest negative change belongs to Saint Lucia. Back in 2012, the island nation‘s CPI was 71. Throughout the years (and especially in 2017 when it dropped by five), it has fallen by 15, now standing at 56.