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Social Progress Index

August 14, 201314 August 2013

Arts indicators / Well-being / Social benefits

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This comparative international report attempts to contribute to a fuller understanding of social and economic development by “measuring the things that really matter to people – their basic needs, their food, shelter and security; their access to healthcare, education, and a healthy environment; their opportunity to improve their lives”. The researchers developed a Social Progress Index to track these items. This first edition of the index is described as a “beta version that will be extended and improved over time”.

The report defines 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 Social Progress Index includes 12 equally-weighted components within three key dimensions: “basic human needs”, “foundations of wellbeing”, and “opportunity”. The Index captures a total of 52 non-economic indicators but none related to the arts and culture.

Three key findings emerged from the research:

  1. “Economic development is necessary but not sufficient for social progress.”
  2.  “A country’s overall level of development masks social and environmental strengths and challenges.”
  3. “At a disaggregated level, the Social Progress Index shows areas of underperformance and success for countries at all income levels.”

Canada ranks very highly on the overall index: fourth among the initial 50 countries included in the study, behind Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. Canada ranks third in the category of basic human needs, fourth regarding opportunity, and eleventh on the foundations of wellbeing component. The country is ranked first on a number of individual indicators within these broad components: personal safety, access to basic knowledge, personal rights, and equity and inclusion. On the other hand, Canada ranks poorly with regard to ecosystem sustainability (47th out of 50 countries).

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