What do Benin, Belgium, Suriname and Brazil have in common? They head a new list of the most diverse countries in the world

It would be hard to compare Benin, Belgium, Suriname and Brazil, but a new study has ranked the four as the world’s most diverse countries based on cultural, political and religious diversity, alongside freedom for diversity. The newly released Global Diversity Index from meaningful travel specialist Rickshaw Travel provides an alternative top destination list for ethical travellers.

The study not only focused on cultural and religious diversity but also looked at the safety and freedom for personal identity and expression in each country. This took into account factors such as a democratic political system and protection from religious, sexual and any other discrimination.

Coming out as the most culturally diverse country in the world is Benin, a small, French-speaking country in west Africa, known as the birthplace of the voodoo religion. While the main language spoken in Benin is French, the country is actually home to an impressive 56 different languages. Benin also came out on top as one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the whole world, based on a Harvard University study which looked at the number of different ethnic groups in each country and which was used among a number of sources in the ranking.

Alongside the top positionings in the rankings, the research also turned up some interesting insights across each of the different elements that were investigated. It was discovered that many European countries ranked as some of the least ethnically diverse, including the UK, France and Italy. At the other end of the scale, there was a large portion of African countries topping the list for ethnic diversity, including Benin, Chad and Kenya.

Elsewhere, the study found that the UAE is home to the highest immigrant population, followed by its nearby neighbour Qatar. The UAE’s immigrant population comprises a large majority of its total population –  83.7% to be exact, while Qatar isn’t far short at 73.8%. This is in large part because there is a growing number of young people from around the world moving to these locations for work. In comparison, the UK has an immigrant population of just 13.2% while the US’ immigrant population is only 14.3%.

An important weighting of the research was placed on the freedom for diversity in different countries – meaning restrictions were not placed on people’s religious beliefs, sexual identity, and other personal identifiers. Singapore came out on top as the country with the highest level of religious diversity, based on a study by Pew Research that was used in the analysis. In fact, 50% of the top 12 most religiously diverse countries in the world were found in Asia.

Meanwhile, Canada scored full marks across the board for religious, sexual and personal freedom, and topped the charts for overall personal freedom. New Zealand, Luxembourg and Iceland also ranked highly across all freedom for diversity categories, as did Ireland thanks to progressions in the country’s equality laws in recent years.

The ranking was based around four overarching categories – cultural diversity, religious diversity, political diversity, and freedom for diversity – that incorporated such factors as the level of ethnic diversity; the number of immigrants; the number of languages spoken, religious beliefs and political parties; the level of religious freedom; LGBT rights and freedoms; and the level of personal freedom.

Each country was ranked (out of 5) across each of the factors, which subsequently was averaged to provide an overarching category score (also out of 5). These were then added up to produce a final score (out of 20) that was used to rank the countries. If scores, were level it used the personal freedom score as the determining ranking fact.

Here’s the top 25 in Rickshaw Travel’s Global Diversity Index…