On April 28, the non-profit organization Social Progress Imperative released a new study
that measured the social progress of 132 countries. The measurements placed the United Arab Emirates first in treating women with respect. Overall, the UAE ranked 37th for social progress.
The study incorporated countries that could offer consistent, usable data. An important part of the measurement was the definition of social progress. In the 2014 Executive Summary Report
, the group laid out the vocabulary used. They especially noted the importance of circumventing the traditional idea of progress, which they believe is biased in favor of the Western perception of progression as linear as opposed to the East’s idea of development as cyclical.
“We define ‘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 Imperative offers this framework of measurements as what it calls a building block to other studies of well-being, such as the Human Development Index and the Gross National Happiness Index, which combine social and economic progress. This particular study took a different approach. In order to understand the relationship between social and economic factors in a country’s growth, the group measured the former alone, without any economic indicators, and then related the results to countries’ GDP.
The Social Progress Index offered by the group is focused on three factors: Basic human needs, opportunity and foundations of well-being. Within each category are four indicators, as shown in the graph below. The outcomes are measured by the extent to which a country has achieved a certain goal, not how much energy or money has been put toward it.
While the UAE scored high overall within the Middle East and North Africa region, it demonstrated “relative weakness” in a series of indicators, ranging from maternal mortality rate to adult literacy rate to freedom of speech.
Among the 132 countries measured, the top three for social progress were New Zealand, Switzerland and Iceland.
Additional reporting by Tessa Ayson. Costanza Maio is news editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.