Social Progress Index 2018: Overall the world is getting better, with 133 of the 146 countries seeing overall improvements in social progress

The 2018 Social Progress Index has just been released – here are some of the headline results:

  • Globally, there has been a significant decline in human rights and inclusion.
  • With Norway ranking #1, Ireland ranks 12th ahead of the UK and Canada, in 13th and 14th places respectively.
  • Australia, France and the US all rank lower than Ireland, in the second tier.
  • US joins handful of countries with overall declines and shows a marked decline in Rights and Inclusion.
  • UK shows decline in Inclusion post-Brexit.

Ireland’s performance on Social Progress has improved by 1.31 points since 2014, which is a good performance compared to other high income countries (France, Germany and the UK all improved by less than one point over this period).

The biggest improvements for Ireland were in Access to Advanced Education and Access to Information and Communications. There was a worrying decline in Inclusiveness by 1.7 points (similar trends in many countries including the UK and the US) related to violence and discrimination against minorities.

Compared to countries of similar GDP per capita, Ireland is performing within the expected range but shows two areas of relative weakness: Water and Sanitation and Health and Wellness. Ireland’s score on Health and Wellness has improved since 2014 whereas there has been no change in its Water and Sanitation score.

Here’s Ireland’s full scorecard:



Globally, there has been a significant decline in human rights and inclusion around the world. On Personal Rights (including Political Rights and Freedom of expression), 75 of the 146 ranked countries witnessed declines. On Inclusiveness (including acceptance of gays and lesbians and violence against minorities), 56 of the 146 ranked countries witnessed declines.

Overall the world is getting better, with 133 of the 146 countries seeing overall improvements in social progress, with the greatest gains being recorded in parts of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, including The Gambia and Nepal. The US, however, joins Turkey and Yemen in showing decline in its social progress score.

This year’s Index ranks 146 countries’ social performance across five years (2014-18), using 51 indicators covering Nutrition, Shelter, Safety, Education, Health, as well as Rights and Inclusiveness.

  • Globally, Personal Rights have declined. The global average dropping from a score of 65.22/100 in 2014 to 61.34/100 in 2018. The US has dropped from 95.97/100 in 2014 to 92.15/100 to 2018, meaning its global ranking based on Personal Rights alone has fallen from 16th in 2014 to 31st in the world, below Spain, Italy and Chile.
  • Globally, Inclusiveness has declined. The global average dropping from a score of 41.25/100 in 2014 to 40.17/100 in 2018. The US has dropped from 67.88/100 to 61.49/100, driven by rising discrimination against minorities and widening gender inequality. Its global ranking on Inclusiveness has fallen from 21st in 2014 to 31st in the world, below Japan, Greece and Cuba.
  • But overall the World has improved. The population-weighted world score on the Social Progress Index rose from 61.80/100 in 2014 to 63.46/100 in 2018 – a 1.66 point increase. Globally, the biggest improvements were in shelter, access to information and communications, and access to advanced education, all of which improved by three or more points in the past five years.
  • Norway tops the 2018 Social Progress Index ranking scoring 90.26/100, boasting strong performance across all the components of the index. Norway has improved by 1.50 points since 2014, more than any of its Nordic neighbors. Central African Republic is at the bottom of the 2018 Social Progress Index (26.01/100, rank 146) but has improved by 2 points since 2014. The best performing G7 country is Japan (89.74/100, rank 6) followed by Germany (89.21/100, rank 9), UK and Canada, which all fall in the top tier of performance. France, Italy and the US follow, in the second tier. Although richer countries tend to perform better, the results are not completely explained by GDP per capita.
  • US among only 6 countries in the world to have fallen back overall. The US has dropped from 85.70/100 in 2014 to 84.78/100 in 2018. Now ranks below Slovenia and just above Czech Republic. Overall decline is driven by falls in Health, Education, Personal Safety, Personal Rights and Inclusiveness. Despite spending more on healthcare than any other country, its Health and Wellness (71.97, rank 37) scores are comparable to Ecuador’s (71.94, rank 38). And the US school system on (score of 91.87, ranked 50th on Access to Basic Knowledge) is producing results on par with Uzbekistan (92.10, rank 48).
  • Richest countries progress sluggish; poorer improving faster. All of the 30 highest ranked countries on the Social Progress Index are high income, but just two of them, Luxembourg and South Korea, experienced significant improvement since 2014. In contrast, the countries that have improved the most over the past five years are low and lower –middle income: Nepal, Ethiopia, Ghana and Pakistan among biggest gainers.

Commenting on the Global results, CEO of the SPI Michael Green said:

“There seems to be a progress paradox in how quality of life is changing around the world. On one hand we see real progress against hunger and disease and getting people in poorer countries connected to basic infrastructure. At the same time rights are being eroded and intolerance is growing across a wide range of countries, rich and poor alike.”

“It is also clear that, although richer countries top the rankings, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is far from being the sole determinant of social progress. Across the spectrum, from rich to poor, we see how some countries are much better at turning their economic growth into social progress than others.”

Commenting on the Irish results, Paul O’Hara, CEO of ChangeX, partners of SPI index in Ireland said:

“This index gives us an objective perspective on how we’re doing against the indicators that matter most to the wellbeing of our society – in an Irish context, there is much to celebrate and much to improve upon, we’re headed in the right direction in terms of overall score and ranking. There is urgent work to do in the areas of inclusion, health, environment and affordable housing which was flagged as a weakness last year and is absent from the index in 2018. We believe development of this index at a local level and at a quarterly frequency could allow local communities to better prioritise and track progress over time.”

Explore the full dataset at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *