their full potential.
The popular way to compare the progress of one country relative to another has been the size of their economies. The Social Progress Index (SPI) uses 54 different measures of social and environmental progress, grouped into three categories, to answer the following questions:
- Does a country provide for its people's most essential needs?
- Are the building blocks in place for individuals and communities to enhance and sustain well-being?
- Is there opportunity for all individuals to reach their full potential?
The Index incorporates four key design principles:
- Exclusively social and environmental indicators: the aim is to measure social progress directly, rather than through economic proxies.
- Outcomes not inputs: the aim is to measure outcomes that matter to the lives of real people, not spending or effort.
- Actionability: the Index aims to be a practical tool with sufficient specificity to help leaders and practitioners in government, business, and civil society to benchmark performance and implement policies and programs that will drive faster social progress.
- Relevance to all countries: the aim is to create a framework for the holistic measurement of social progress that encompasses the health of societies at all levels of development.
The remainder of the top ten includes a group of Northern European nations (Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark), Canada, and Australia. Together with the top three, these countries round out a distinct “top tier” of countries in terms of social progress scores.
A notch lower is a second tier of countries that includes a group of 13 countries, ranging from Austria to the Czech Republic. This group includes a number of the world’s leading economies in terms of GDP and population, including five members of the G-7: Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and France.
The next level of social progress is a third tier of countries, ranging from Slovakia to Israel. This diverse group of nations includes countries at sharply different levels of economic development, ranging from Costa Rica (which significantly out-performs its rank in terms of GDP) to the United Arab Emirates (which has one of the highest measured GDPs per capita in the world but is ranked 37th in terms of SPI). Clearly high GDP per capita alone does not guarantee social progress.
At the next, fourth, tier is a large group of approximately 50 countries ranging from Kuwait at 40th to Morocco at 91st. These countries are closely bunched in terms of their overall Social Progress Index score, but have widely differing strengths and weaknesses.
A fifth tier of countries, ranging from Uzbekistan (92nd) to Pakistan (124th), registers substantially lower social progress scores than the fourth. Many of these countries also have low GDP per capita, but some are much more highly ranked on GDP per capita.
Finally, a bottom tier of eight countries registers the world’s lowest levels of social progress, from Yemen (125th) to Chad (132nd). The Social Progress Index provides evidence that extreme poverty and poor social performance often go hand-in-hand.
Among regions, Europe, North America, and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) are the best performing regions on overall social progress. Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia are the worst performing regions