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DHL Global Connectedness Report shows why globalization remains strong despite turbulent times

In times marked by severe conflict, questions about the role of globalization continue to flourish. But the latest edition of the DHL Global Connectedness Report, released in partnership with New York University’s Stern School of Business, unveils a remarkable finding: Globalization reached a record high in 2022 and has remained near that level in 2023.

2024 DHL Global Connectedness Report

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Globalization at a record high

Since DHL’s Global Connectedness Report was last published, some of the strains on globalization have eased while others have intensified. The disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are clearly in the past, and its economic aftereffects are receding. But the United Nations now reports the largest number of violent conflicts since the Second World War, and geopolitical rivalry over key technologies continues to escalate.

In this dynamic environment, reliable measures of the state and trajectory of globalization are essential for business and public policy decision-making. The 2024 Global Connectedness Report is based on the meticulous analysis of nearly 9 million data points on country-to-country flows, and it measures the globalization of 181 countries, covering 99.7% of the global economy and 98.7% of the world’s population. It provides a unique and comprehensive picture of how goods & services, capital, information, and people are moving around the world.

That picture clearly shows that globalization reached a record high in 2022 and remained close to that level in 2023. This outcome may surprise many readers, but the data are unambiguous: global connectedness remains strong, even as the public policy context has become less conducive to globalization, and conflicts dominate the headlines.  

We invite you to look more closely at the key takeaways and topline results from the 2024 DHL Global Connectedness Report – and download the full report for a more in-depth analysis.

Ample room for growth

The data also refute the idea that we are living in an age of unfettered globalization, as some would claim: International flows are still much smaller than flows within national borders.

This year for the first time, the DHL Global Connectedness Report used a methodology that measures the world’s depth of globalization on a scale from 0% (nothing crosses national borders at all) to 100% (a “frictionless” world where borders and distance have ceased to matter). It currently stands at 25%, which means we are still closer to a world of separate countries than to a fully globalized world.

In other words, globalization may be at an all-time high, but there is ample room for growth.

Please cite data source as: 
Steven A. Altman and Caroline R. Bastian, "DHL Global Connectedness Report 2024," Bonn: DHL Group. (DOI:10.58153/7jt4h-p0738)




Global connectedness set a record in 2022 and remained close to it in 2023.




Singapore was the most globally connected country in 2022, followed by the Netherlands and Ireland.



The pullback from direct US–China trade accelerated in 2023, but both countries are still significantly connected.



Among major G20 economies, Russia had the largest single-year drop in global connectedness on record.



Global flows show no general split of the world economy between rival geopolitical blocs.




Most international flows take place over stable or longer distances.





Companies expanded their international presence and earned more sales abroad.




The share of global trade in world GDP was at a record level in 2022.





After strong growth over two decades, the globalization of information flows stalled, partly due to US-China tensions.



The world’s absolute level of global connectedness is only at 25%.



Summary: Three central questions

Three questions, three insights: The analysis of global trends in the 2024 Global Connectedness Report examines three questions at the center of current debates about globalization.

1. Are global flows still growing?

The evidence strongly rebuts the notion that the growth of global flows has gone into reverse. The world’s overall level of global connectedness reached a record high in 2022, and data suggest it remained at roughly the same level in 2023.

Trade growth played a key role here. The share of global output traded internationally hit a record high in 2022. Early data suggest a modest decline in 2023, but this isn’t a signal of deglobalization. Trade growth normally lags behind GDP growth when the global economy slows.

Furthermore, it seems companies haven’t lost their appetite for international expansion. Examples include a rise in the value of announced greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI), and the fact that publicly traded companies from most countries are earning more of their sales abroad, among others.

People flows, which were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, continued a strong recovery trend in 2023. International travel reached 88% of pre-pandemic levels and was on track for a full recovery by the end of 2024.

2. Is geopolitical rivalry fracturing the global economy?

The 2024 DHL Global Connectedness Report notes clear shifts in international flows for countries at the center of current tensions. Nevertheless, there is still no clear evidence of a wider split of the world economy between rival blocs of allied countries.

The United States and China have reduced their direct flows with each other, with an average decline of roughly one-quarter in the share of U.S. flows involving China – and vice versa – since 2016. However, the shifts represent less a decoupling of the world’s two largest economies and more a reduction of what had previously been an unusually high level of integration. Ultimately, the U.S. and China are still connected by larger flows than almost every other pair of countries worldwide.

The term “decoupling” better describes another dramatic shift in international flows: the reorientation of Russia’s flows away from Europe and other Western-aligned economies since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In the realm of trade, Russia pivoted to alternative export markets and import sources, but no similar substitution has taken place for international business investment. As a result, announced greenfield FDI into Russia has collapsed.

However, these developments haven’t led to a wider split of the world economy between rival blocs of countries. The data also confirm that there is no general pattern of countries interacting more with other countries that have similar geopolitical perspectives.

3. Are international flows becoming more regional?

Through 2023, there is no robust evidence of international flows generally becoming more regional. In fact, most types of flows have tended to take place over stable or longer distances. There was a small decline in the average distance traversed by trade in 2023, but it’s important not to overstate this development since trade flows in 2023 covered the second-longest distances on record. The only major trading region showing a clear nearshoring trend over multiple years is North America.

The lack of wider evidence of trade regionalization might be another surprise for some, as some publications have identified a rising trend in the share of trade happening inside regions that started roughly a decade ago. But that trend turned out to be short-lived, and it appeared only with some ways of defining regions and not others.

It’s also important to keep in mind that international flows are already highly regionalized; roughly half of international trade, capital, information, and people flows take place inside major world regions.

Whether international flows will become more regional in the future remains to be seen. Many companies and governments are working to foster regional supply chains, and such reconfigurations can take several years to execute.

143 countries more connected

The 2024 DHL Global Connectedness Report includes country-level analyses of 181 countries. This provides additional evidence of the resilience of global flows. The gains were widespread across countries and not just the result of a small number of countries becoming more globally connected.

In 2022, the most recent year for which we have full country-level data, 143 countries became more globally connected, while only 38 saw their levels of connectedness decline.

Singapore topped the list of most globally connected countries this year, followed by The Netherlands, and Ireland. At the bottom of the list, in ascending order, were Guinea Bissau, Yemen, and São Tomé and Príncipe. The countries with the largest increases in 2022 were Bahrain, the United Kingdom, and Lebanon. The countries with the largest declines were Belarus and Russia. The drop in Russia’s connectedness was more than twice as large as any previous decline on record for a country that ranks among the world’s 20 largest economies.

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Driven by data, delivered by DHL

To make sound decisions, business leaders need solid information. Each year, the DHL Global Connectedness Report provides a grounded perspective on the state of globalization to help them do just that.

Globalization is at the forefront of many trade and policy discussions around the world, but it remains difficult to quantify. Making it tangible and measuring its development calls for scrutinizing the data and separating facts from fiction. As a leading logistics company, DHL is uniquely positioned to provide orientation and contribute to the globalization debate.

To provide a solid research foundation, DHL partnered with New York University’s Stern School of Business to form the DHL Initiative on Globalization, where a team of scholars conducts the research and analysis. Each edition of the DHL Global Connectedness Report builds on the previous report and the scholars’ decades of globalization research.

Tangible takeaways for sound decision-making

With debates about the merits of international openness continuing, the report is a go-to resource for business leaders and policymakers who wish to have better-informed discussions. Due to its unique focus, the DHL Global Connectedness Report is regularly featured in international media outlets and national publications worldwide. It is also increasingly cited in scholarly journals, consultant reports, and general interest books.

DHL Initiative on Globalization

The DHL Initiative on Globalization at NYU Stern aims to develop and maintain the academic world’s most comprehensive collection of data on the globalization of trade, capital, information, and people flows and to be a leading center of excellence for data-driven globalization research.

Published: March 2024

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