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Australia Ranks Fourth in Global Social Progress Index

5 July 2016 at 9:54 am
Lina Caneva
Australia has ranked fourth in an annual global social progress index behind Denmark, Canada and Finland which topped the list. Australia scored 89.13 points in a tight contest where Finland scored top with 90.09, in…

Lina Caneva | 5 July 2016 at 9:54 am


Australia Ranks Fourth in Global Social Progress Index
5 July 2016 at 9:54 am

Australia has ranked fourth in an annual global social progress index behind Denmark, Canada and Finland which topped the list.

Social progress Graphi world 2 RS

Australia scored 89.13 points in a tight contest where Finland scored top with 90.09, in the list of the world’s top 12 countries considered to have Very High Social Progress.

The Skoll Foundation’s 2016 Social Progress Index covered 133 countries in total with 53 indicators of social and environmental outcomes.

The report said economic growth was not the sole determinant of quality of life. The 2016 Index found that while social progress which included measures of opportunity, healthcare, education and tolerance did tend to rise as GDP increased, economic wealth on its own did not explain social progress outcomes.

Australia performed best in Basic Human Needs and Water and Sanitation, and had most opportunity to improve on the Shelter component.

Social Progress Report Australia 2016

Social Progress Index Australia 2016

In the Foundations of Wellbeing dimension, Australia scored highest on Access to Basic Knowledge but lagged on the Health and Wellness component. In the Opportunity dimension, Australia was strongest on Personal Rights and had the most room to improve on Tolerance and Inclusion.

The report described social progress as the capacity of a society to “meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential”.

The United Kingdom rated ninth followed by New Zealand in 10th place. The United States was ranked outside the top list at 19th.

According to the index, the three greatest areas of US underperformance were on measures of Environmental Quality, Health and Wellness and Personal Safety. Despite spending the most on healthcare per capita of any country in the world, the US ranks poorly on Health and Wellness (69th), below countries including Uganda (42nd), Tunisia (28th) and Slovenia (47th).

“New Zealand achieved a level of social progress (88.70) almost as high as Norway (88.45) at a GDP per capita that is half that of Norway (US$32,816 (A$43,821) versus US$63,421 (A$84,696)),” the report summary said.

“If the world were a country, it would score 62.88 (out of a possible 100) on the Social Progress Index, ranking between Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.

“Breaking down this average across dimensions and components of social progress there is a wide variation in how countries are performing. The world scores 73.17 in Basic Human Needs and 67.24 on the Foundations of Wellbeing dimensions, but just 48.24 on Opportunity.”

The report said that creating a society with opportunity for all citizens remained an elusive goal that many nations had failed to achieve.

“The index identifies a wide range of areas in which the US is underperforming compared to countries with a similar GDP per capita,” it said.  

In December 2015 Australia was ranked second in the world for human development in a report by the United Nations.

The Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Program, found that Australia excelled in the areas of life expectancy, expected years of schooling and gross national income per capita.

Only Norway received a higher Human Development Index ranking.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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One comment

  • Roger Hawcroft says:

    Whilst the concept of this index may be admirable, there is clearly a problem with its design. It appears to take little, if any, consideration of the hierarchy of needs, nor the “on the ground” reality as opposed to notional accomplishment. If that’s not the case then the measuring bar must be very low indeed.

    There is simply no way that Australia could rank 4th in “social progress” on any valid scale. Australia’s horrendous treatment of refugees; its neglect of the First Australians; its xenophobia (that has recently seen a revival of Pauline Hanson after 18 years); its neglect of services for mental health, the aged and disability; the assault on public broadcasting; the influence of wealth and privilege over the well-being of its people; the deterioration and increasing cost to individuals of education and health services, and the ever increasing gap between rich and poor, are just some of the factors which refute the reality implied by the ranking of this index.

    There are many other factors which defy the reliability of this measure, not least the continual erosion of civil rights, and one wonders just how it could have been reached. Certainly, it will give an opportunity for glee by the narrow-minded, bigoted and moribund right-wing, profit before people, demagogues who now run the country but it is in no way a reflection of reality for the average Australian or of the mood or sentiment across the nation.


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