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2017 Social Progress Index results

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

Deloitte and the Social Progress Imperative (SPI) are working together to get a global view of people’s quality of life and the wellbeing of society, independent of wealth. The Social Progress Index measures what really matters to citizens – health care, infrastructure, civil liberties – the very characteristics that are the foundation for sustainable societies. Designed to complement GDP, the Index uses societal and environmental outcome indicators to provide an authoritative view across three dimensions: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing and Opportunity.

  • The 2017 Social Progress Index report was launched on 21 June by SPI with support from Deloitte and its strategic partners. See the full 2017 results here.
  • It finds that 113 countries, out of the 128 countries ranked, have improved their level of social progress since 2014, with some countries demonstrating that it’s possible to significantly improve social progress, in spite of economic and geopolitical challenges.
  • However, progress is 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 the real problems societies face and struggles of ordinary people.
Findings
  • Denmark is the world’s top performer this year (scoring 90.57/100), 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.
  • 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% over the last four years.
  • The overall improvement is a result of advancements 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 enrolment and literacy, and water and sanitation.
  • But progress is reversing in some areas such as Personal Rights. At this rate of social progress the world will find it challenging to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

For additional insights and perspectives click here.

Why these findings matter

  • 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 changing the way we address social challenges. Acting as a road map, the Social Progress Index has the ability to help enable leaders – across business, government and civil society – to systematically identify a strategy towards responsible and inclusive growth through prioritizing the most pressing needs of their communities.
  • With this insight businesses can better support governments and non-profits in finding solutions to fill those gaps. Social challenges also present opportunities for companies that understand sustainable change can be met through innovative products and services. Financial institutions and impact investment groups have begun applying the Social Progress Index to understand risk and drive capital towards social investments.

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

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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