Australia drops down the Social Progress Index

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Australia drops down the Social Progress Index

21 June 2017: Australia has dropped from fourth place in 2016 to ninth place in 2017 on the Social Progress Imperative’s global Social Progress Index, which measures people’s quality of life and the wellbeing of society, independent of wealth. 

The 2017 Social Progress Index is released today, with the executive summary, methodology, country scorecards and other resources available online at

The 2017 Social Progress Index measures the performance of 128 countries and covers 98% of the world’s population, across three dimensions:

  • Basic Human Needs – such as water and shelter
  • Wellbeing – such as health and education
  • Opportunity (the ability people have to improve their lives) – such as equality, personal rights and access to advanced education.

Deloitte Australia National Lead Partner for Public Sector & Healthcare, Fran Thorn, said: “Australia continues to rank highly on the Social Progress Index and is rightly still seen as one of the best places in the world to live. We lead the world on access to clean water, secondary education, and freedom of expression; we are the fourth healthiest nation in the world and rank fifth for access to advanced education. Yet like many other advanced nations we have made very little gains in the past four years, relative to what our GDP indicates is possible to advance social progress.

“While we enjoy an enviable standard of living in Australia, this report reflects Australia’s current most highly debated social issues, ranging from the quality of electricity supply, control of greenhouse emissions, gender issues, and political terror and religious tolerance.  We still have opportunities to improve the quality of life for all Australians and public and private sector leaders ignore these challenges at their cost.”

Deloitte Australia Social Impact Lead Partner, Tharani Jegatheeswaran said: “Social progress is the foundation of competitiveness and stability – without healthy and well-educated citizens, adequate infrastructure, effective legal systems and peace and tolerance, economies cannot thrive. 

“Globally the past year has seen a fundamental shift in the expectations of the voting public around social issues, as reflected by Brexit and the US election. The world is facing increasingly complex social challenges. Much of the anger making itself felt across the world is the result of slow-changing or stagnating standards of living. 

“Deloitte believes that business, working alongside government and the Not For Profit sector, has the power and the imperative to help address the challenges society faces. The Social Progress Index can act as a tool in this, helping business navigate their contribution to social progress. It acts as a road map to guide policy makers and business leader’s investments, resources and collaborations.”

Denmark is the world’s top performer on the Social Progress Index in 2017, closely followed by a combination of the remaining Nordic countries, as well as countries much larger in size and more diverse in population, including Canada, Netherlands, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany. 

Among the bottom performers on the Social Progress Index are some of the world’s poorest countries, including Central African Republic (ranked lowest), Afghanistan, Chad, Angola, and Niger.

If the world were a country, it would rank between Indonesia and Botswana, with a population-weighted score of 64.85/100. That indicates an improvement in global social progress of 2.6%. This is principally being driven by improvements in access to information, communications and advanced education driving social progress globally, with some convergence in progress towards nutrition and basic medical care, access to basic knowledge through enrollment and literacy, and water and sanitation.

While this means that 113 countries, out of the 128 countries ranked, have improved their level of social progress since 2014, this progress remains slow and uneven. The world is underperforming compared to what global average GDP per capita suggests is possible. This signals that we have the resources to be better and that rising GDP figures are masking real problems societies face and the struggles of ordinary people.

Media contact

Ben Findlay
Head of Corporate Communications
M: +61 404 157 121
T: +61 2 9322 7247

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