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The 2014 Social Progress Index puts New Zealand first in a global index that ranks 132 countries by social and environmental performance (rather than economic output) in a drive to make social progress a priority for politicians and businesses. It clearly shows that economic performance alone is not an adequate measure of progress.
The Social Progress Index (SPI) looks at more than 50 indicators, including health, sanitation, shelter, personal safety, access to information, sustainability, tolerance and inclusion and access to education. Survey questions include whether a country can satisfy its people's basic needs and whether it has the infrastructure and capacity to allow its citizens to improve the quality of their lives and reach their full potential.
The SPI strongly correlates to issues in a 2014 Deloitte Millennial Report where a majority of the almost 7,800 millennials (people born in the 1980s and 1990s) surveyed in 28 countries prioritised education, health care, employment and protection from crime above improving their financial situation, the same issues reported on in the SPI 2014 Report. Interestingly these millennials also believe social progress lies not just with governments but also with businesses.
New Zealand (which scores highly for personal rights and freedom, internet access and school enrolment) is followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Denmark and Australia. Other large world economies did not fare so well, with Germany in 12th place, the United Kingdom in 13th, Japan 14th, the United States 16th and France 20th. All of them except Germany scored poorly on environmental sustainability. The United States may be the top spender of healthcare but ranked poorly on health and wellness. Italy was 29th place, hurt by poor access to advanced education, sustainability and tolerance and inclusion.
MEASURING BEYOND GDP
Even though economic growth and social progress are correlated, especially for poorer countries, the connection is far from automatic, said Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, co-author of the report. "The SPI finds that all economic growth is not equal," he said in a statement.
Costa Rica and South Africa for example may have similar levels of gross domestic product (GDP), but the central American nation achieves greater social progress than South Africa because of its progressive environmental and healthcare policies. The SPI 2014 Reports indicates that a lack of opportunities and inequality are significant drags on economic performance.
Fuimaono Tuiasau, Director, TINZ