Social Progress Index: Japan Ranks Highly for Health, but Takes 14th Overall

News & Views - April 6th, 2014
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Japan ranked poorly in a global index that measures countries’ social and environmental performance, falling behind New Zealand and other nations to the 14th spot, but took the top mark in health rankings.

New Zealand claimed the top spot on the Social Progress Index, which rates 132 countries on more than 50 indicators, including health, sanitation, shelter, personal safety, access to information, sustainability, tolerance and inclusion and access to education.

Although not included among the top 10 nations, Japan led the world in health and wellness, based on indicators such as life expectancy and the rate of obesity. Japan ranked low in the treatment of both women and of immigrants.

Instead of gauging economic output, the SPI measures the capability of a nation to satisfy its people’s basic needs and whether it has the infrastructure and capacity to allow its citizens to improve the quality of their lives and reach their full potential, Reuters reports.

“The index shows that economic growth does not automatically lead to social progress,” Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, a non-profit organization that publishes the index, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“If we are to tackle progress such as poverty and inequality, it shows that measuring economic growth alone is not enough.”

New Zealand performed well in personal rights and freedom, internet access, and school enrollment, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Denmark and Australia in the top 10.

Some of the world’s largest economies did not fare so well. Germany ranked 12th, the United Kingdom 13th, the United States 16th and France 20th.

Asian economies like China and India ranked 90th and 102nd respectively, showing that rapid economic growth has not yet translated into better lives for their citizens.

Experts said that even though economic growth and social progress are correlated, performing well on one factor does not imply the other.

“The SPI finds that all economic growth is not equal,” especially for poorer countries, said Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter in a statement.

By Maesie Bertumen

“Close encounters in Shibuya” by Alex Torres/Flickr