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Canada Ranks 7th in Social Progress Index

April 18, 2014

For the past 80 years, the standard measure of a country’s quality of life was the GDP – a strictly monetary measurement. There’s a new way to determine quality of life, however, known as the Social Progress Index (SPI). From the Social Progress Imperative website, the SPI, “offers a rich framework for measuring the multiple dimensions of social progress, benchmarking success, and catalyzing greater human wellbeing.” In other words, instead of measuring wealth, the SPI seeks to quantify some previously difficult-to-measure variables such as:

• Nutrition and Basic Medical Care
• Water and Sanitation
• Shelter
• Personal Safety
• Access to Basic Knowledge
• Access to Information and Communication
• Health and Wellness
• Ecosystem Sustainability
• Personal Rights
• Personal Freedom and Choice
• Tolerance and Inclusion
• Access to Advanced Education

These variables were selected in order to give a ranking for which countries have the best overall quality of life. Each aspect of the SPI measurement is independent of the others, though there are correlations between some. For example, it would be difficult to have adequate levels of Personal Safety without having correlating levels of shelter for citizens.

In a short interview with the Business News Network, the Social Progress Imperative’s Executive Director, Michael Green, explains some of the key takeaways about Canada ranking on the SPI metric. He emphasizes that the SPI is a holistic measure of quality of life and is separate from economic factors.

Tools like the SPI can help governments determine their policy on a variety of social and quality-of-life issues. Governments are wise to take interest because what is good for society is good for the economy…to a point. Canada is proof of this; as we attain a higher GDP, basic health issues improve until data show a sudden downward trend caused by obesity and age-related disability – hallmarks of a life of plentitude.

Mr. Green sees that big business in partnership with government can provide solutions to this type of crisis. In the SPI Findings, the report states a tendency that, “As countries reach high levels of income, our findings suggest that the easy gains in social progress arising from economic development become exhausted [basic healthcare], while economic growth brings new social and environmental challenges [managing disabilities, obesity].” The section continues, “Given the speed at which countries are moving from health challenges of under-nourishment to ones of obesity, which has a double burden in terms of mortality and morbidity, we may over time see some countries decline on Health and Wellness even as their GDP rises.”

Even though Canada ranked 7th of 132 countries, it is important to note that the SPI’s findings caution readers to remember the following, “Overall, the findings from the top 10 reveal that even the strongest countries in terms of social progress have unfinished agendas and areas for improvement. This reflects our guiding principle that, properly understood, the need to measure social progress applies to all countries, not just those that are less developed.”

Finally, as Canadians, it is not whether obesity or disabilities exist that impact quality of life metrics, instead, it is how we choose to serve these vulnerable citizens in our communities that ultimately determine everyone’s quality of life.

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