The World Bank has a neat resource for looking at foreign countries, the Doing Business database. You can look at an overall measure of how easy or hard it is to do business in various countries, then drill down to see how rigid regulations are in particular areas, such as hours that employees can work. (Hat tips to The Global Small Business Blog via The China Law Blog.)
Companies doing business overseas–or contemplating overseas business–can use this resource in two ways. First is the obvious way: find a country where it’s easy to start a business. The second way to use this database is to find countries where local markets are likely to expand rapidly. A nation which allows new business formation to proceed with a minimum of red tape and bribery will grow much faster than other countries. Expect the good countries to have a vibrant, bottom-up economic expansion led by small entrepreneurs. These are good markets for a variety of products, ranging from deodorant for the middle class to software for businesses.
Business Strategy Implication: Look for overseas sales in countries with a healthy small business sector.