​Global perceptions of top economies place Australia second

Recent research by the British Council has found that Australia ranks equal second (with the UK, and behind the US) out of 15 global economies for overall ‘attractiveness’.

​Global perceptions of top economies place Australia second

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But while Australia rated highly in overall attractiveness, its ranking was considerably lower in its attractiveness for arts and culture.

In response to the question: Which three of the following countries do you find most attractive as a source of arts and culture? Australia ranked ninth, with just 15 per cent of respondents placing it in the top 3.

First in terms of arts and culture was France, followed by Italy, the US, the UK, Spain, Japan, China, Germany and then Australia.

The study into how the UK is perceived by the rest of the world, calledAs Others See Us—culture, attraction and soft power—was published in 2014.

It was undertaken principally to determine what underpins and could enhance the UK’s soft power—and arts and culture are considered a key tool in soft diplomacy.

In most categories surveyed, the four English-speaking countries—the US, the UK, Canada and Australia—ranked very highly.

That gives Australia a clear advantage in lifting our standing in arts and cultural engagement.

But to do that requires a solid commitment from government to support Australia’s international engagement.

The question the report explores is ‘What most entices, connects and engages young people—especially those with the potential to be the political, business, academic and creative leaders of the future—with the UK and other countries?’

More than 6000 young people were surveyed via an online questionnaire across six countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India, Great Britain and the US. The individual sample size for the research in each country was just over 1000.

The research focused on young educated people in countries with whom the UK and other nations around the world are seeking to connect for education, tourism and/or business purposes.

As a point of comparison, other countries included in some of the questions were theUS, Australia, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, Germany, Spain, Brazil, China, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and India.

As the report says in its introduction: ‘In a multipolar, hyperconnected world, a country’s power is increasingly measured by its ability to inspire and attract citizens of other nations to take an interest in its national story, enjoy its passions, and ultimately respect its values, ideas and aspirations.’

It describes the ‘great game’ of soft power, as the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce—and this game is increasingly being played out across social media, on film and screen, over the internet, in concert halls, in galleries and in schools and universities.

As a result, the ability to attract has become a vital asset and driver of a country’s international standing and influence.

But what makes a country attractive?

The starting point for the research was to explore the range and importance of factors people might take into account when assessing the attractiveness of a country.

The findings showed that a wide range of factors can be important—including a country’s cultural and historic attractions, its countryside and landscape, and its people—each chosen by six out of ten respondents.

Other prominent factors are its cities, its arts and a reputation for being safe and secure—all chosen by at least five out of ten.

Still important for many people, but slightly further down the list, are factors such as a country’s weather; its history; its technology and infrastructure; its language; its economy and business environment; its social and political institutions in areas such as the media, law, and health; and its education system.

The actions of a country’s government and its sporting teams and events are less widely considered to contribute to attractiveness but are still chosen by around one in five people.

As the most attractive place to study, Australia ranked third (behind the US and the UK) with 39 per cent of respondents placing it in the top 3, and followed by Canada.

Again the top four countries ranked as most attractive based on their people were the US, UK, Canada and, in fourth spot, Australia.

This was based on the questions: Which three of the following countries do you find most attractive for making personal contacts and friendships? and Which three of the following countries do you find most attractive as a country whose people can be trusted?

While Australia can be pleased with much of the findings of this research, it clearly has some work to do in selling itself as a destination for arts and culture—an important attractiveness factor, and therefore, a crucial component of soft power.

Read the report here.

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