In this article, we shall discuss 20 countries with the most religious freedom in the world. To skip our detailed analysis of the relationship between freedom of religion and economic growth, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in general, go directly and see 10 Countries With The Most Religious Freedom In The World.
Freedom of Religion and Economic Growth: An Analysis
According to a study by Georgetown University and Brigham Young University, freedom of religious belief is one of the most important factors commonly associated with economic growth. The study considered the GDP growth of more than 170 countries globally in 2011 and accounted for more than 25 different financial, social, and regulatory variables. Whilst this is not conclusive evidence of a positive correlation between freedom of religion and economic growth, it does merit consideration as an unrecognized asset, especially in the current context of consistent macroeconomic headwinds, supply chain constraints, and inflationary pressures. In this vein, the study also sheds light upon the fact that there exists a positive relationship between religious freedom and 10 of the 12 pillars associated with global competitiveness, as measured by the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index 2020 especially in some of the countries with the most religious freedom in the world. Companies like Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) topped the 2023 edition of the REDI Index, which measures a company's commitment to including religion as part of its overall diversity initiatives. You can read more on religions around the world in our article 20 Most Religious Countries in the World.
According to another report by the World Economic Forum, secular policymaking often leads to higher levels of institutional corruption. The report states that nine of the ten countries which have the highest levels of corruption as per Transparency International have incredibly high governmental restrictions on religious liberty. One such example is North Korea, which is one of the most restrictive countries in the world when it comes to religion and makes our list of 8 Countries Where Religion is Illegal. The basic assumption to this assertion is that religious freedom encourages business leaders to draw on spiritual values and moral teachings as they conduct themselves in the business arena in countries with the most religious freedom in the world. Religious teachings also tend to seep into business ethics.
Furthermore, countries with the most religious freedom in the world tend to minimize violence and conflict, which in turn, is essential for a conducive and productive economic environment. Normal economic activities are sensitive to political and social disruption, with local and foreign investment highly dependent on the degree of stability within the country's internal political climate. Tolerance is critical to peace and stability, which in turn are one of the most important considerations for investors looking to conduct normal and predictable business transactions, primarily in new and emerging markets. Religious restrictions can directly impact economic activity by creating legal barriers for import and export industries. One important example is the halal food industry.
Business operating in countries with the most religious freedom in the world like Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) are able to avoid major liabilities by complying with the liberal policies of the state and installing mechanisms in place to avoid religious discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, freedom of religion can enhance pluralism within an organization, which in turn is commonly associated with financial health and economic growth. The active participation of religious minorities within a company, and in society in general, boosts dynamism within the economy, encourages innovation, and contributes millions to the economy through direct spending.
Integrating Hybrid Work With DE&I Strategies: An Overview
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, millions of people around the world were forced into hybrid models of employment. As the global macroeconomic outlook recovers from the headwinds perpetrated by the Great Resignation, employee preferences have shifted in that more than eighty percent of employees who worked in hybrid models during the pandemic prefer retaining them according to a survey by McKinsey - and many companies are complying and adapting to these newer work models. Employees have reported that they are twice as likely to look for new opportunities elsewhere if they are asked to return in a full-time, on-site capacity. However, despite such popular support for hybrid work models, religious, ethnic, and racial minorities have found it difficult to navigate the inclusion landscape from a hybrid setting. They have claimed that whilst it is true that hybrid work offers greater flexibility and better work-life balance, it is also imperative to note that hybrid work tends to create unequal playing fields and prioritizes in-groups at the expense of out-groups. For companies like Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) which have demonstrated a commitment to diversify and retain employees, adopting ill-advised hybrid work models could exacerbate the headwinds perpetrated by the pandemic by maximizing departures, decreasing inclusion, harming morale, and hindering performance.
According to McKinsey, to construct a more inclusive hybrid workspace, data will likely prove to be incredibly useful in understanding the working-model preferences of the diverse demographics of an organization. It is also known that the behavior of managers and teams on a day-to-day basis is the most potent determinant of employee experience within a given workspace, followed by the liberal nature of countries with the most religious freedom in the world. Companies must also inculcate a culture of mutual respect by creating norms which push employees to view each other as members of the human race and not merely co-workers. Organizations must train employees to inquire about each other's preferences and boundaries for working styles and communication. For hybrid work specifically, this might also include increased levels of experimentation with mixing different types of meetings.
Secondly, companies which are leading the DE&I initiative globally, like Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) are also diverting greater investment in fostering a workplace culture which encourages employees to learn with and from each other. Blunders are reframed as opportunities to learn. This usually requires significant investment in the way of training employees to adopt "growth mindsets" which further encourage teamwide development. Team events and excursions aid the construction of invaluable bonds which are essential preconditions to a conducive and profitable work environment.
To compile our list of the 20 countries with the most religious freedom in the world, we adopted a consensus-based approach using a diverse variety of credible sources and research which studied religious freedom and tolerance in countries around the world (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). We then shortlisted more than 50 countries which appeared most frequently during our research. We then thoroughly examined the constitutional and legal provisions of each country, assessed government policies from 2008 to 2023, and consulted public opinion surveys from each country. Since freedom of religion is an incredibly multidimensional and complex phenomenon, we established a three-pronged criteria to measure the level of religious freedom in each country; the criteria is premised on freedom of expression provisions within each country's legal framework (20 points), social tolerance (15 points), and state response to incidents of discrimination (10 points). We then proceeded to award each country a cumulative score according to the aforementioned criteria and selected 20 countries which scored the highest points. Subsequently, we ranked each entry based on the total points scored, from lowest to highest. Where there was a tie, we broke it based on the freedom of expression provisions within each country's legal framework.
Many countries which made our list of 20 countries with the most religious freedom in the world also featured on our list of 30 Countries with the Best Economy in the World Right Now.
Countries With The Most Religious Freedom In The World
Total Score: 16
Poland is exceptionally diverse in terms of religion, as it comprises 15 different religious groups. Some of these groups include Roman Catholic, Polish Orthodox, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism, making Poland one of the countries with the most religious freedom in the world.
Total Score: 17
Even though the most predominant religious denomination in Italy is Catholicism, the state gives everybody a right to practice their religion. In fact, the religious tolerance in Italy is considered one of the highest in Europe.
Total Score: 19
Freedom of religion is one of the primary principles in German law and the right to practice one’s religion freely is granted by the state’s constitution. The state, itself, does not identify with any religious organization and welcomes all kinds of religions into the country.
Total Score: 19
In Spain, it is considered to be a crime to prohibit an individual from practicing their religion or offending their religious beliefs. Due to this, Spain is known to be one of the countries with the most religious freedom in the world.
Total Score: 22
According to the constitution of Luxembourg, every resident has the right to practice their religion in any way, as long as it does not involve committing a criminal offense.
Total Score: 23
The residents of France are immensely diverse in terms of religion. Some of the religions that are predominant in the country are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Many French people do not identify with any religion at all.
Total Score: 26
Even though a vast majority of the residents of Portugal belong to Catholic Christianity, religious tolerance in the country is extremely high. Every citizen is permitted to practice their religion even when the country is in a state of emergency.
Total Score: 28
The Austrian constitution gives a right to all of its citizens to choose, practice, and leave their religion freely, without any state interference. The law in the country permits children above the age of 14 to choose their own religion and faith, making Austria one of the countries with the most religious freedom in the world.
Total Score: 28
The right to practice religion is a constitutional right provided to all the citizens of Switzerland. Even though the country has no state religion, the constitution and the penal code emphasize on prohibiting discrimination against a religion or its community members.
11. United States of America
Total Score: 30
The United States of America is a melting pot of communities from around the world and is commonly perceived to be highly diverse in terms of religion. Its citizens belong to all kinds of different religions, including Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. The US is number 11 on our list of countries with the most religious freedom in the world.
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Disclosure: None. 20 Countries With The Most Religious Freedom In The World is originally published on Insider Monkey.