2020 Social Progress Index progress

Vast majority of countries worldwide have achieved social progress since 2011

Share good news. Ignite change.

Every year, the US-based nonprofit organization Social Progress Imperative releases its Social Progress Index, a country-level scoring system that measures over 160 countries around the world against a variety of criteria for their social well-being and opportunity. According to the Imperative, the Index is “the only measurement tool to comprehensively and systematically focus exclusively on the noneconomic dimensions of social performance across the globe with transparent and actionable data.”

The 2020 Social Progress Index, released in September, shows that the vast majority of countries scored –155 of 163 nations – has demonstrated social progress since 2011. Progress has been made globally on eight of the 12 key criteria :

  1. Nutrition and basic medical care (progress)
  2. Water and sanitation (progress)
  3. Shelter (progress)
  4. Personal safety (stagnation)
  5. Access to knowledge (stagnation)
  6. Access to information and communications (progress)
  7. Health and wellness (progress)
  8. Environmental quality (progress)
  9. Personal rights (regressed)
  10. Personal freedom and choice (progress)
  11. Inclusiveness (regressed)
  12. Access to advanced education (progress)

While most nations have taken meaningful steps forward, some such as Bahrain, United Kingdom, and Nicaragua have stalled. And a few, including the United States, Hungary, and Brazil have actually declined. Further, while most nations have progressed since 2011, this past year has seen a decline for most countries likely because of the pervasive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Significant improvers and decliners on social progress 2011-2020. Source: Social Progress Imperative 2020.

There is of course much work to be done in every country, no matter how much progress has been made, especially considering the compounding crises of COVID-19, climate change, and economic inequality that touch every corner of the globe. At the same time, this year’s Index is an important reminder that change can, does, and is happening all around us, all over the world, every day.

Is your country making progress? If not, why? If so, what opportunities are there for even greater progress? What can be done right now to ensure that this time next year we are celebrating significant social progress in every country in the world across all the elements of well-being and opportunity?

Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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