Social Innovation

These are the countries where social progress is rising and falling the most

The Social Progress Index focuses on the non-economic aspects of social performance.

The Social Progress Index focuses on the non-economic aspects of social performance. Image: Unsplash/Alexis Brown

Anna Fleck
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • The rate of social progress has slowed significantly in recent years, according to the 2022 Social Progress Index.
  • The index is based on 12 components, from nutrition and basic medical care to access to advanced education, which are determined by a total of 60 indicators.
  • The eight countries on the chart showing the most improvement are all low and lower middle-income countries, including Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.
  • Progress could fall even further back in 2023 due to geopolitical tensions, climate change and economic instability.
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While it’s true that the world is getting better on the whole, the rate of social progress has slowed significantly in recent years. This is according to the 2022 Social Progress Index. Where the world score rose from 59.84 (out of 100) in 2011 to 65.24 in 2022, the rate of progress has decelerated in the past five years, especially so last year. The index is based on 12 components, from nutrition and basic medical care to access to advanced education, which are determined by a total of 60 indicators.

Social Progress Index 2022

Data reporting delays mean the full scale of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still unknown. In addition to the threats of climate change, economic instability and geopolitical tensions, the authors of the report warn of a “significant risk” that the world’s social progress could even fall back for the first time in 2023.

As our chart shows, there are major inequalities in terms of which countries have seen social progress and which haven't in the past 11 years. Only four countries have declined between 2011 and 2022. Of these, Venezuela has seen the sharpest drop, falling some 7.26 points.

The United Kingdom also appears on the list, having regressed 0.28 points. This decline is attributed to stringent austerity measures and Brexit, having impacted all areas from education to healthcare, rights and tolerance. The UK has fallen from 11th rank in the world in 2011 to now standing at 19th and is likely to fall further, dropping into the second subgroup of social progress (out of 6). In terms of rights, it currently places 35th globally, after Chile, the Czech Republic and Barbados, while in terms of discrimination and violence against minorities, the country has fallen from 29th position in 2011 to 93rd globally.

Although the U.S. has not made it onto the chart, it has stagnated since 2011 and been in decline since 2017 (-0.56). In terms of the interpersonal violence indicator, the country ranks 107th in the world, behind the Republic of Congo, Nicaragua and Sierra Leone, while it is 102nd for violence against minorities, behind South Africa and Poland.

By contrast, the eight countries on our chart showing the most improvement have all also moved up the ranks. As the report details, these have all been low and lower middle-income countries, including The Gambia, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. Richer countries have generally improved at a slower rate.

The Social Progress Index focuses on the non-economic aspects of social performance. A total of 169 countries were analyzed based on complete data under the 12 following indicators: nutrition and basic medical care, water and sanitation, shelter, personal safety, access to basic knowledge, access to information and communications, health and wellness, environmental quality, personal rights, personal freedom and choice, inclusiveness and access to advanced education. A further 27 countries, which only had partially completed data, such as Ukraine and Afghanistan, were also analyzed.

A graphic showing the biggest risers and fallers in the social progress index.
The biggest risers and fallers in the social progress index. Image: Statista.
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