The Social Progress Index put together by the US non-profit organization, Social Progress Imperative, is based on a range of social and environmental outcome indicators organized within three dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity.
The Index released last week ranks 133 countries of the world, and has Finland on top, followed by Canada.
According to the Index, Latin America and Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa dominate the list of countries that perform well on the 2016 Index relative to GDP per capita, including Costa Rica, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Malawi, Rwanda, Ghana and Senegal. Nepal stands out as a strong over-performer in South Asia.
“It is possible to calculate a global social progress score, as a sum of country scores weighted by population. On this measure the world as a whole scores 62.88/100 on the Social Progress Index, equivalent to Kyrgyzstan or Mongolia,” it said.
Finland is this year’s top performing country, followed by Canada (2nd), Denmark (3rd), Australia (4th) and Switzerland (5th).
Though these countries’ social progress scores are very similar, their GDP per capita varies. 1st placed Finland in fact has the lowest GDP per capita ($38,535) of the top 5 (Canada—$42,778; Denmark—$42,758; Australia—$43,219; Switzerland—$55,260), showing that higher GDP can help generate higher social progress but it is not the whole story, the group said in a press release.
The group indicates that as well as measuring absolute performance on social progress, the report compares each country to 15 other nations with similar GDP per capita to establish strengths and weaknesses relative to those countries with broadly equivalent national wealth.
“Against this benchmark Costa Rica, Uruguay, Ghana and Senegal are among the countries classed as ‘over-performers’ on social progress this year. Costa Rica – the world’s biggest over-performer and with a GDP per capita of $14,232, achieves a level of social progress almost as high as the Republic of Korea at less than half its GDP per capita ($33,629),” it said.
The Index found that in the Basic Human Needs Dimension, Ghana performs best on Nutrition and Basic Medical Care and has most opportunity to improve on the Water and Sanitation component. In the Foundations of Wellbeing Dimension, Ghana scores highest on Access to Basic Knowledge but lags on the Environmental Quality component. In the Opportunity Dimension, Ghana is strongest on Personal Rights and has the most room to improve on Access to Advanced Education.
On Personal Rights, Ghana scores 73.77, ranking the country 38th in the world. With a score of 83.90, the country is ranked 94, while on Access to Basic Knowledge, Ghana had a score of 80.70, placing the country at 91.
Commenting, the Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative, Michael Green said: “The Social Progress Index proves that GDP is not destiny. We need more countries to be like Costa Rica, which squeezes a lot of social progress out of its modest GDP.”
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi