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Top 8 Asian Markets for Global Expansion in 2023

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Asia is home to some of the world’s top locations for global expansion. The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranks Asia third among the best places in the world to do business in 2023, and its economic growth is expected to outpace the United States and Europe in 2023.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top Asian economies for global expansion based on the 2022 World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) report and 2023 EIU report, which examine the global business environment of particular markets based on factors like economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, infrastructure, and political developments.

They also assess particular countries’ digital competitiveness based on three factors:

  • Knowledge: know-how necessary to discover, understand, and build new technologies
  • Technology: overall context that enables the development of digital technologies
  • Future readiness: level of country preparedness to exploit digital transformation

Read on to explore the top eight Asian countries for global expansion, listed in no particular order, and learn how to simplify global expansion.

Singapore

Singapore is an island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. Singapore has a population of 6 million as of 2023 and has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $397 billion as of 2021. Its competitive workforce, business-friendly economy, and forward-looking government policies make Singapore the world’s gateway to Asia.

As one of the Four Asian Tiger countries, Singapore is known for being a global financial center and is a top market for growing tech companies. The country is also one of the world's leading exporters of products and services and has a large English-speaking population.

Notable scores from the 2022 WCY report, which ranked 63 countries:

  • Overall world digital competitiveness: #4 
  • Knowledge: #5 
  • Technology: #1 
  • Future readiness: #10

Notable scores from the 2023 EIU report, which ranked 82 countries:

  • Business environment: #1 

Notable industries in Singapore:

  • Financial services
  • Electronics manufacturing
  • Petroleum refining
  • Biomedical device production
  • Telecommunication equipment
  • Tourism 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region in South China, with a population of 7.4 million as of 2023 and a GDP of $369.2 billion. Hong Kong’s location provides foreign investors with a commercial and infrastructural gateway to mainland China, another Asian economic powerhouse. 

As one of the Four Asian Tiger countries, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated territories in the world and is home to a highly skilled and educated workforce. Hong Kong is known as one of the world’s leading financial hubs, and English is one of the two main languages, alongside Cantonese.

Notable scores from the 2022 WCY report, which ranked 63 countries:

  • Overall world digital competitiveness: #9
  • Knowledge: #7
  • Technology: #2
  • Future readiness: #18

Notable scores from the 2023 EIU report, which ranked 82 countries:

  • Business environment: #7

Notable industries in Hong Kong:

  • Finance
  • Manufacturing
  • Trade and logistics
  • Tourism
  • Telecommunications

Taiwan

Taiwan is a country in East Asia located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, roughly 100 miles from the coast of southeast China. Taiwan has a population of 23.9 million as of 2023 and a GDP of $790 billion. 

As one of the Four Asian Tiget countries, Taiwan is known for its culture of innovation and boasts a tech-savvy workforce, making it an attractive location for global tech leaders. The Taiwanese government has also simplified the foreign investment process to make it easier for international companies to set up and operate. 

Notable scores from the 2022 WCY report, which ranked 63 countries:

  • Overall world digital competitiveness: #11
  • Knowledge: #18
  • Technology: #6
  • Future readiness: #8

Notable industries in Taiwan:

  • Electronics
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Services

 

Interested in expanding or hiring local talent in a new Asian market? Download our guide to learn how an employer of record (EOR) like Velocity Global helps you quickly expand into new markets and hire the right candidates across borders while ensuring compliance:

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Korea

South Korea is an East Asian nation on the Korean Peninsula, with a population of 51.7 million as of 2023 and a GDP of $1.8 trillion. Over the past several decades, Korea has benefitted from rapid economic growth and is now one of the world’s most technologically advanced economies.

As one of the Four Asian Tiger countries, Korea is one of the world’s most prominent manufacturers of electronics and semiconductors, and the country ranks among the top in the world for patent applications per capita and research and development expenditures. Korea also has a highly educated and technologically literate workforce.

Notable scores from the 2022 WCY report, which ranked 63 countries:

  • Overall world digital competitiveness: #8
  • Knowledge: #16
  • Technology: #13
  • Future readiness: #2

Notable industries in Korea:

  • Electronics manufacturing
  • Automobile manufacturing
  • Telecommunications
  • Shipbuilding
  • IT

Vietnam

Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country with a population of 98.7 million as of 2023 and a GDP of $366.1 billion. Over the past several years, Vietnam has transformed into a global manufacturing hub as businesses seek relocation of their operations due to rising costs and regulations in China. 

Vietnam has a strong economy, a growing infrastructure, and a well-educated workforce—an interest for global employers seeking to hire employees in Vietnam. The country is also open to foreign direct investment and provides favorable policies for global investors. 


Notable scores from the 2023 EIU report, which ranked 82 countries:

  • Business environment: #12

Notable industries in Vietnam:

  • Information and communications technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Renewable resources
  • Healthcare
  • Tourism and hospitality
  • Agribusiness

Thailand

Thailand is located in the middle of Southeast Asia, with a population of 71.7 million as of 2023 GDP of $505.9 billion. Thailand has the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, with a robust economy for imports and exports. 

Thailand has a highly educated and cost-effective workforce compared to its Western counterparts and is known for its affordable cost of living. The Thai government has also worked towards making the country’s economy and foreign policies more favorable for global businesses and investors.

Notable scores from the 2022 WCY report, which ranked 63 countries:

  • Overall world digital competitiveness: #40
  • Knowledge: #45
  • Technology: #20
  • Future readiness: #49

Notable scores from the 2023 EIU report, which ranked 82 countries:

  • Business environment: #10

Notable industries in Thailand:

  • Automobile and automotive part manufacturing
  • Financial services
  • Electric appliance production
  • Tungsten and tin production
  • Agriculture
  • Tourism

Malaysia

Malaysia is in Southeastern Asia, just south of Thailand and bordering northern Indonesia. Malaysia has a population of 32.37 million as of 2023, and its GDP is $373 billion. Malaysia is a strategic gateway to the region due to its geographic location and ease of doing business. Malaysia is known as a strong manufacturing, trade, and export base.

Malaysia’s workforce is highly educated and requires a comparatively lower cost of living compared to other developed nations. It also has a developed physical infrastructure and a government that advocates for policies supporting business growth. English is also one of the most commonly spoken languages in the country.

Notable scores from the 2022 WCY report, which ranked 63 countries:

  • Overall world digital competitiveness: #31
  • Knowledge: #25
  • Technology: #29
  • Future readiness: #31

Notable industries in Malaysia:

  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Electronics manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Agriculture
  • Financial services
  • Construction

Japan

Japan is an island country in East Asia situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Japan’s population is approximately 125.3 million in 2023, and its GDP is $4.9 trillion. Japan’s location in the Asia-Pacific region positions the country as a strategic location for trade and economic partnership agreements. 

Japan is home to the world’s third-largest economy. Japan’s diverse and innovative economy is robust in technology and research and development, and it continues to be an attractive market for tech firms.

Notable scores from the 2022 WCY report, which ranked 63 countries:

  • Overall world digital competitiveness: #29
  • Knowledge: #28
  • Technology: #30
  • Future readiness: #28

Notable industries in Japan:

  • Manufacturing
  • Electronics
  • Transport
  • Construction
  • Services

Simplify expansion into Asia with an employer of record

While expanding internationally into Asia presents several opportunities for businesses, it also comes with challenges. Global companies must understand and abide by each country’s unique tax and labor laws to legally enter the country and employ local talent.

Fortunately, global companies can avoid the headaches and legal risks by partnering with an EOR like Velocity Global. An EOR allows you to quickly and compliantly test or enter a new market without establishing an entity.

Our EOR solution enables you to seamlessly and cost-effectively hire in new markets, generate new revenue streams, and reach new customers without worrying about the risks of noncompliance.

Contact Velocity Global to learn how we simplify global expansion in over 185 countries.

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