2021 Social Progress Index Summary

About the Social Progress Index

The Social Progress Index (“the Index”) has been compiled by the Social Progress Imperative, a US-based non-profit. It measures how well countries and communities convert this resources into positive social and environmental outcomes that improve the daily lives of citizens. Covering key areas like health, safety, education, rights and opportunity, the index empowers decision makers and everyday people with hard data on social progress.

The 2021 Social Progress Index is the most comprehensive measure of the world’s social performance with more than 107,000 pieces of data collected and vetted from the past 11 years. The Index helps up understand how more than 7 billion people from across 168 countries are really living, as well as who is being left behind.

The Index with country rankings and full data is available at


2021 Social Progress Index key findings

  • Norway ranks first in the world on social progress, with South Sudan at the bottom of the list. Eight of the top 10 countries are in Europe with Canada and Japan also scoring highly.
  • Female-led countries top the Index. Until October 2021 with the Norwegian Prime Minister change, the top four countries on the 2021 index had female heads of state.
  • On average, the world is improving, but progress remains slow and uneven. The population-weighted world average score has improved by 4.63 points since 2011. Since then, 147 counties (86% of those measured) have improved by one point of more, with 67 of the 147 having improved by five points or more.
  • Much of the world’s improvement, both on average and by country, has been due to improvement in access to information and communications. Of the 168 countries measured, all but South Sudan improved have improved on this component since 2011. The world has also seen significant improvement, on average, on water and sanitation, shelter, and access to advanced education.
  • The world is declining significantly on personal rights. 116 of the 168 counties measured by the Index have seen individual rights rolled back since 2011. While not universal, this trend is apparent across all regions and levels of social and economic development.

A New Zealand Perspective

This year New Zealand scored 90.02 (down from 91.64) and ranked 12th globally (down from 4th last year).

The 2021 Dashboard indicates:

  • Our biggest weaknesses were: inclusiveness, access to advance education, personal freedom and choice, health and wellness, and environmental quality.
  • Our strengths were: nutrition and basic medical care, personal rights, access to basic knowledge, water and sanitation, and access to information and communications.
  • We scored 1st globally in 9 categories, up one category on last year.

Social Progress Imperative social media handles

Twitter: @socprogress
Facebook: @SocialProgressImperative
LinkedIn: Social Progress Imperative

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