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Australia ranked world’s 10th most socially advanced country

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4 April 2014: Australia is the world’s 10th most socially advanced nation according to a major new global index published today by US-based nonprofit, the Social Progress Imperative, and released at the 2014 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. Australia finished behind top performing New Zealand and other countries including Canada and Norway, but finished ahead of Germany, the United States and France–according to the Social Progress Index 2014 which ranks 132 countries based on their social and environmental performance.

The Social Progress Index, created by a team led by Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School, is designed as a complement to GDP and other economic indicators to provide a more holistic understanding of countries’ overall performance. The full, interactive dataset from the Index is be available at their website.

Measuring a country’s social progress outcomes the Index also identifies the areas in which Australia is under-performing compared to countries with a comparable GDP per capita.

Australia under-performs on the measure of ‘Shelter’ (18th globally), thanks partly to the quality of its electricity supply, but scores well on ‘Personal Rights’ (2nd globally) and well on the measure of ‘Health and Wellness’ (5th), behind Japan (1st) and Italy (2nd), but ahead of the UK (37th), the United States (70th) and Canada (13th). This is thanks partly to a high life expectancy–on average Australians will live to almost 82 years old (the 6th highest country for life expectancy globally).

Professor Michael E. Porter said: “Until now, the assumption has been that there is a direct relationship between economic growth and wellbeing. However, the Social Progress Index finds that all economic growth is not equal. While higher GDP per capita is correlated with social progress, the connection is far from automatic. For similar levels of GDP, we find that some countries achieve much higher levels of social progress than others.”

Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative, said: “Australia’s ranking as the 10th most socially progressive nation on earth is testament to factors like the exceptional personal rights and freedoms citizens enjoy. Australia also performs relatively well compared to the United States, which finishes 16th in the Index rankings. On ‘Health and Wellness’, ‘Personal Rights’ and ‘Basic Medical Care’ Australia ranks higher than the United States, despite America enjoying the world’s second highest per capita GDP–almost $10,000 more than Australia.”

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Key global highlights

  • New Zealand is this year’s top performing country
  • Canada is the best performing G8 country
  • Brazil is the top of the BRICS, followed by: South Africa, Russia, China and India. Apart from Brazil, the BRICS are all significant under-performers on social progress, suggesting that, for China and India in particular, rapid economic growth is not yet being converted into better lives for their citizens.

    In the overall results of the 2014 Social Progress Index, which ranks a total of 132 countries based on their social and environmental progress, Australia’s position is in line with the its economic strength: its GDP per capita of $35,669* is also the 10th highest globally.

Key Australian findings


  • Australia scores strongly on ‘Personal Rights’ owing to its top global ranking across indicators including ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘political rights’. ‘Personal Rights’ falls within the ‘Opportunity’ dimension in which Australia performs consistently well, securing top spot in five of the 20 indicators within this category. In fact, on overall measures of ‘Opportunity’ (finishing 3rd globally) Australia beats all the Nordic countries.


  • ‘Shelter’ is Australia’s main weakness: the lack of affordable housing in Australia (44th globally) and quality of electricity supply (21st globally) leads to an overall ranking of 18th for ‘Shelter’.

Other findings;

  • Australia has a high level of obesity: one in four Australians are classified as obese (111th) according to the researchers
  • The levels of violent crime (Australia ranks 19th globally) and traffic deaths (14th) push Australia into 15th position under the ‘Personal Safety’ category
  • Despite scoring top globally for middle and upper school enrollment, Australia scores just 43rd in terms of primary school enrollment.

The Social Progress Imperative created the Social Progress Index working in collaboration with scholars from the Harvard Business School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as international organizations in social entrepreneurship, business and philanthropy led by the Skoll Foundation and Fundación Avina as well as Cisco, Compartamos Banco, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte Global) and its member firms (Deloitte).

Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, said:“Making social progress a true imperative means putting the progress of humanity and our wellbeing on an equal footing with GDP. The Social Progress Index prioritizes and measures what matters, capturing data that ranges from basic needs such as health to the building blocks and guarantees of opportunity such as education and rights. As the first global framework to disaggregate global social progress from economic progress, the Social Progress Index will propel nations on a path to a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.”

Andrew Johnstone Burt Deloitte Australia’s National Leader Public Sector, said: “In order to achieve sustainable growth and strengthen society we need a better way to assess social progress. The Index is a game-changing new tool, designed to empower governments, businesses, social entrepreneurs, and others; to advance their collective accountability; and to illuminate opportunities for investing in and scaling solutions.

Deloitte is collaborating with the Social Progress Imperative and others because we believe business has a role to play in helping solve the world’s critical issues and the Index is a tool that can ignite collective action from business, government and society.”

Professor Michael E. Porter said: “The Social Progress Index is the most inclusive and ambitious effort ever attempted to define and measure social progress comprehensively. It is a new tool which allows us to have a more complete picture of a country’s wellbeing as a society that can be compared and evaluated against economic performance. It is our hope that just as GDP per capita is the de facto measure of economic success, so too SPI will become a widely accepted measure of social and environmental success”

“The Social Progress Index is designed to capture the full breadth of issues that define social progress, benchmark country performance, and identify priority areas for improvement. The Index uses indicators that measure outcomes - such as life expectancy, literacy, and freedom of personal choice - rather than inputs such as size of government spending or laws passed. And, because the Social Progress Index measures comprehensive social outcomes directly, separately from economic indicators, it allows us – for the first time – to examine the relationship between economic and social progress.”

Notes to editors

2014 Results
The full, interactive dataset from the Index is be available at Social Progress Imperative website. Please note that due to a variety of changes made to this year’s index including the number of countries covered, the 50-country 2013 Social Progress Index is not comparable to the 2014 Social Progress Index.

About the Social Progress Imperative
The Social Progress Imperative’s mission is to improve the lives of people around the world, particularly the least well off, by advancing global social progress by: providing a robust, holistic and innovative measurement tool—the Social Progress Index (SPI); fostering research and knowledge-sharing on social progress; and equipping leaders and change-makers in business, government and civil society with new tools to guide policies and programs.

Financial Support
The Social Progress Imperative is registered as a nonprofit organization in the United States, and is grateful to the following organizations for their financial support: Cisco, Compartamos Banco, Deloitte Global, Fundación Avina, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Skoll Foundation.

What is social progress?
Social progress is defined as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens to improve their lives, and create the conditions for individuals and communities to meet their full potential.

*GDP per capita definition
The Social Progress Index uses the World Bank definition: “GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP). PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States. GDP at purchaser's prices is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources. Data are in constant 2005 international dollars." Check the source here.

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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 April 2014 

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