The Social Progress Index has been developed to provide accurate and detailed data on fifty social and environmental outcomes, in an effort to improve upon traditional, purely economic, measures of success such as GDP. These fifty outcomes are grouped into three main ‘dimensions of social progress’: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity.
The 2017 Index, which was released in June, shows Denmark as the country having the highest overall social progress, with Australia coming in joint 9th along with New Zealand.
The above graph of social progress relative to GDP shows that there is a lot of ‘noise’ around the trend line, meaning that statistically, GDP and social progress do not necessarily go hand in hand. This is particularly true once countries reach a certain level of GDP, where the curve begins to level out and further increases in GDP produce little or no improvement in wellbeing according to social indicators. This is why its creators believe that the Social Progress Index is important, because GDP as a measure leaves out so many factors which influence human wellbeing, such as environmental sustainability, freedom from discrimination and access to education.
Accurate data on how communities are performing in different areas gives leaders the ability to take a more strategic approach to improving quality of life by prioritizing their investments in areas of greatest need, just as having accurate measures of GDP helped the US government to lift itself out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.