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Published
29 May 2024
Read time
5 minutes

GBCI rankings revealed for 2024: the Netherlands and the UK place among the 10 easiest countries to do business in. Greece overtakes France as the most complex jurisdiction

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TMF Group, a leading provider of compliance and administrative services, today launches the 11th edition of the Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI).

The comprehensive report analyses 79 jurisdictions, which account for 93% of the world’s total GDP and 88% of net global FDI flows. It compares 292 annually tracked indicators, offering data on key aspects of doing business, including incorporation timelines, payroll and benefits, rules, regulations, tax rates, and other compliance factors.

Within this year’s report, the US remains outside the top ten simplest countries in which to do business, moving from 68th in 2023 to 63rd in 2024. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, Denmark, the UK and Hong Kong, SAR retain their places among the ten least complex jurisdictions in which to operate.

The list of the ten most business-friendly jurisdictions has a new entry in Jamaica (70th position vs 49th place in 2023), while the Cayman Islands (79th) retains its place as the easiest jurisdiction in which to do business.

This year’s report also includes a new jurisdiction, Saudi Arabia, which holds the 37th position in the business complexity ranking.

Over the years, the UK has consistently ranked among the least complex jurisdictions in which to do business, this year placing at 73rd, moving down one place from 2023. The UK exhibits low complexity in both its accounting and tax (A&T) and global entity management (GEM) set of rules due to its simple, stable tax system and adherence to international financial standards. The regulatory environment is also stable, creating predictability for businesses.

The United States places outside of the ten least complex jurisdictions for the second year running. The reason behind its placement can be attributed to the introduction of the Corporate Transparency Act, which is ambiguous in its application and unclear about the responsibilities of service providers, with the US currently lacking substantial UBO legislation. Furthermore, the upcoming presidential elections and the recent introduction of foreign tariffs represent another factor of uncertainty, with foreign investors unsure of the country's future economic outlook. However, in a globalised economy the US remains an attractive jurisdiction for foreign investors, thanks to its skilled workforce and clear global reach.

When it comes to complex jurisdictions, Greece takes the top spot in this year’s report, climbing from 6th in 2022 and 2nd in 2023. While Greece has consistently been considered complex - particularly within accounting and tax - its HR and payroll (HRP) rules have also increased in complexity in 2024. Furthermore, digitalisation has become an additional challenge to consider.

TMF Group CEO Mark Weil said:

These indicators matter both to firms investing in a country and to local firms and entrepreneurs trying to build businesses. There is a correlation across countries between low business complexity and wealth per capita, and while that is shaped by many factors, the bureaucratic burden placed on business is a significant contributor. It is also a political choice over which governments have control. There have been several studies pointing to the more complex pathways that firms are now establishing to derisk their supply chains and routes to market. Some of those pathways take firms through complex countries to do business. So, our clients will be dealing with a double dose of complexity from needing to be present in more countries, many of which will be more difficult to do business in. That is a problem that TMF Group is here to solve, as a single trusted partner helping our clients invest and operate safely across all such locations.

GBCI 2024 also identifies the key themes shaping the global business landscape and regulatory environment:

The impact of global regulatory compliance on foreign investments

This year’s edition of the GBCI highlights that most jurisdictions expressed confidence in legislation stability across the next five years, representing a continued upward trajectory on previous years. In 2020, for example, just 35% of jurisdictions predicted it to be likely that there would be no significant change in legislation. Year on year, the sense that no significant change will occur has increased, reaching 58% of jurisdictions in 2024.

The report suggests that rather than the amount or complexity of legislation posing a challenge, it is instead the speed with which regulatory changes are introduced where the true difficulty lies.

Geopolitical factors and bridge economies

Geopolitical instability is evidently impacting the flow of trade and investment choices globally. Whilst energy prices remain high, disruption of supply chains and trade barriers also pose a considerable challenge for global players. As a result, many companies are reviewing their potential growth plans and expansion goals for the longer term.

However, whilst geopolitical issues may disrupt supply chains or create trade barriers for some jurisdictions, other jurisdictions are finding themselves benefitting from a global shift. Due to their neutrality on global issues, countries known as ‘bridge countries’ are able to benefit from moves away from established power blocs. For these ‘bridge countries’, their newly established position in the global supply chain has become a key way for multi-national businesses looking to manage their risk in a period of international instability.

Uncertain times and strategies for success - technology and staff retention

Although jurisdictions named a variety of factors that impact growth, IT and technology topped the rankings as most influential. Technology offers growth in multiple ways as it can provide growth opportunities where countries possess technological manufacturing expertise and can increase their market share through production. Using technology to boost productivity was also identified in relation to workforce streamlining. Multiple jurisdictions, including New Zealand and Hong Kong, SAR, were seeing companies automating back-office, entry level and part-time jobs using generative AI to keep workforce numbers low and focus on higher value tasks.

At the same time, a large majority of jurisdictions are finding it challenging to attract and retain talent (78%) – with this number even higher for EMEA (90%) and APAC (79%) regions. The ability to effectively respond to demand is largely dependent on two dynamics: local labour laws and regional talent. Jurisdictions with tight labour laws and a strong union presence - or those with a shortage of available talent - are much less able to adapt staffing levels responsively.

Top and bottom ten (1= most complex, 79= least complex)
1. Greece 70. Jamaica
2. France 71. British Virgin Islands
3. Colombia 72. Jersey
4. Mexico 73. United Kingdom
5. Bolivia 74. The Netherlands
6. Turkey 75. New Zealand
7. Brazil 76. Hong Kong, SAR
8. Italy 77. Denmark
9. Peru 78. Curacao
10. Kazakhstan 79. Cayman Islands
Media Contacts

TMF Group:
Giampaolo Arghittu, Senior Global External Communications Manager
giampaolo.arghittu@tmf-group.com 
T: +39 334 947 95 84

 

Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI)
UK and US among 10 easiest countries to invest in. Brazil remains the most complex jurisdiction for setting up and running a business.

TMF Group, a leading provider of compliance and administrative services, has today launched the ninth edition of its Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI).

Explore Topic
Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI)
10th GBCI report: rankings revealed

TMF Group, a leading provider of compliance and administrative services, has today launched the 10th edition of the Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI).

Explore Topic