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Social Progress Index results

A global view of people’s quality of life, independent of wealth.

The Social Progress Index ranks 130+ countries, covering over 94% of the world's population, using societal and environmental outcome indicators. Designed to complement GDP, the Index provides an authoritative view on the things that matter most to people, across three dimensions: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing and Opportunity.

  • Social Progress Imperative (SPI) released the 2016 Social Progress Index report on 29 June with support from Deloitte and its strategic partners.
  • It finds that nearly half the world’s youth live in low social progress countries – if you are young you are much more likely to lack basic medical care, clean water, safety, personal freedoms and tolerance.
  • The 2016 report further reconfirmed that GDP is necessary but not sufficient for social progress and that the correlation begins to break down as countries get richer, highlighting the importance of policy and innovation over wealth in achieving social aims such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Findings
  • In the 2016 Index, Finland takes the top spot (scoring 90.09/100), followed by Canada (89.49) and Denmark (89.39). However the performance of the highest 12 countries in the Index was close, with only small differences between their social progress scores (1st: 90.09 – 12th: 87.94). The worst performer in this year’s Index was the Central African Republic (30.03), just ahead of Afghanistan (35.89) and Chad (36.38).
  • The world as a whole has improved its social progress score very slightly. It performed best in Nutrition & Basic Medical Care (86.83) and Access to Basic Knowledge (85.03), due in part to the focus on these two areas by the Millennium Development Goals. The world scores more poorly in the provision of Personal Rights (39.15) and Tolerance and Inclusion (40.59).
  • However, scores on their own do not tell the whole story. Some countries achieved very high scores relative to their level of GDP per capita - simply put, with fewer resources they were able to generate more social progress. ‘Over-performers’ in this sense include Costa Rica and Uruguay in Latin America, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan in Asia, Malawi and Rwanda in Africa and New Zealand. Conversely, other countries scored less well in terms of social progress given greater resources available. These ‘under-performers’ include many countries in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • A new finding from this year’s report highlights the plight of young people - nearly half the world’s youth live in low social progress countries. The 2016 report find that nearly half the world’s youth live in low social progress countries – if you are young you are much more likely to live in a society without basic medical care, clean water, safety, personal freedoms and tolerance. On average the oldest population group has a score of 67.63, which would put them at 59th in the Index if they were a country – meanwhile the youngest demographic has a score of only 60.15, ranking them at 93rd in the Index.
  • As with years past we found that GDP while being necessary for social progress was not sufficient for it. Indeed the richer countries seem to become, the less correlation there is between GDP per capita and social progress. This is due to the fact that some indicators are not necessarily improved by wealth - i.e. tolerance - and can be worsened by rising incomes - i.e. obesity rates and environmental damage.
  • The varying relationship between wealth and social progress in developing and developed nations is echoed in findings around inequity. While there is no overall relationship between social progress and income inequality, lower levels of inequality are associated with higher levels of social progress in countries with a high level of income (OECD countries).
Why these findings matter
  • The world is facing increasingly complex social challenges. Leaders ignore these challenges to their cost.
  • Much of the anger making itself felt across the world is the result of stagnating standards of living. Rising GDP figures mask real problems societies face and the struggles of ordinary people
  • The complexities of the 21st century require new measures of progress. Relying only on a country’s wealth or GDP as a measure creates an incomplete picture of human and societal development. And increasingly we realise the getting rich will not solve current social challenges. To drive sustainable and equitable growth we need to focus on measurements which go beyond GDP.
  • The Social Progress Index is revolutionizing the way we solve social challenges.
  • It enables governments, businesses, and civil society organizations to systematically identify and prioritize the most pressing needs of their communities through both the Global Index as well as through regional, local and community level social progress indices. These tools empower actors from across sectors to come together, speak a common language and drive measurable change.
  • It acts as a road map to guide policy makers and business leader’s investments, resources and collaborations.
  • Policy makers are increasing recognising this fact. In 2015, the EU Commission used the Social Progress Index framework to create a regional social progress index for the 272 regions in the EU. By comparing regions with similar levels of GDP per capita, this new data sets shows regional strengths and weaknesses, highlighting potential best practices and opportunities to drive faster progress.

For further information on how we can use the Social Progress Index to help our clients and society, see our Collaborations page.

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