Measuring economic growth alone isn’t enough.

It’s a message we heard at Davos in January, and it was the theme of the Beyond GDP editorial focus we ran just a few months ago.

So if just GDP isn't enough to tell us how well a nation is performing, what is? This is where the Social Progress Index comes in. It aims to help us move beyond growth economics by looking at social and environmental performance and progress. This is the latest ranking.

The Social Progress Index

Created by the Social Progress Imperative, the index covers 99% of the world’s population. It measures social progress on three broad dimensions: basic human needs, foundations of well-being and opportunity.

Image: Social Progress Index
Image: Social Progress Index

Finland tops this year’s ranking with a score of 90.09 out of 100. Canada follows in second, while Denmark takes third.

 World Social Progress Index and component scores
Image: Social Progress Index

What's really important is to assess economies relative to their peers, according to the report. For example, while a rich country may do well on the absolute measure, when compared with similar countries, it may in fact be under-performing.

Social progress and economic development

There is a clear correlation between economic progress and social progress. However, what is made clear in the report is that social progress among countries with similar GDP per capita is variable. “Economic performance alone does not fully explain social progress," emphasize the authors.

Image: Social Progress Imperative

The report also highlights the non-linear nature of the relationship between economic and social progress. At lower income levels, a small increase in GDP per capita can make a much bigger difference than is seen at higher income levels.

The link between economic development and social progress is likely to run in both directions, suggest the authors. While improved economic conditions boost investment in areas key to society, social progress (better health and education, for example) can also drive economic growth.