Over 68% of countries have serious issues with corruption, including half of the G20. More than 5.5 billion people live in a country with major levels of corruption. These are the findings of by Transparency International, in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2015, which was released this week. The data on globalEDGE has been updated to reflect the recent release, and is available to view in the country pages, along with our Database of International Business Statistics (DIBS). This year’s release featured 168 countries, highlighting countries which have the least and most corruption. The index specifically measures the perceived levels of public corruption, by utilizing and combining various data points into one score.

The most “clean” country in 2015 was Denmark, with a score of 91 on the index, the country’s second straight year on top of the index. Interestingly, the top five consisted almost exclusively of countries in Northern Europe, as Finland came in second, followed by Sweden at third and Norway at fifth. The most corrupt countries in the index are Somalia and North Korea, both tied for 167th with a score of 8. As Transparency International points out in the release, many of the most corrupt nations also struggle with violence and conflict, as five of the ten most corrupt countries are also included in the list of ten least peaceful places on Earth.

One thing to note about the index, the rankings should not necessarily be seen as the be all and end all of corruption, as the index has its limits. An article in the Washington Post by Dan Hough points out several issues with the index, starting with the fact that basing an entire country’s level of corruption in one score leads to many issues, including generalizations and large estimates that might be ripe with error. Certain areas or regions of a country might very well be “clean”, but a few bad areas can ruin the perception of the country, thus significantly lowering its score.

When looking at the index, readers should be sure to note that the score is only based on corruption in the public sector, so any corruption by private businesses that may affect the public is not counted. Readers should also be wary of looking too much into rises or declines by specific countries, as the number of countries measured changes each year, and a one or two point difference in score could very well fall in the index’s margin of error.

Overall, the index gives us a glimpse at a country’s general level of public corruption in a quick and easy to read format. While direct comparisons and small movements in score might not be particularly useful information, the index is a good way to look at general perceptions of corruption, which can be very useful for those in international business. Lastly, as the index shows, every single country deals some with corruption, which is important for every citizen to remember.

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