2018 Social Progress Index Highlights


  • Overall World improves across aggregate of 51 indicators of social progress but widespread deterioration in Rights and Inclusion measures –
  • Biggest gains in Africa and Asia –
  • US joins handful of countries with overall declines and marked decline in Rights and Inclusion –
  • UK shows decline in Inclusion post-Brexit

New data published today shows that 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.

The 2018 Social Progress Index, compiled by the Social Progress Imperative a US-based nonprofit, 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.

The new data reveals:

  • Globally, Personal Rights have declined. The global average dropping from a score of 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 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 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, Social Progress Imperative CEO 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 US results, Chair of the Social Progress Imperative Advisory Board Professor Michael E Porter said:

“The headline economic indicators – GDP growth, the unemployment rate, the stock market – all say that the US is in the midst of a sustained economic expansion that was slow to develop after the Great Recession. But a deeper look at US performance offers far less cause for celebration.

“America is mired in a social progress recession. Data from the Social Progress Index, the first ever rigorous measurement of social performance across a broad range of indicators and all major countries, reveals that the quality of life and opportunities for many Americans are lagging. The fact is that our country is failing on many of the things we hold most dear. And it’s getting worse.”

Commenting on the UK data, Social Progress Imperative CEO Michael Green said:

“Like a lot of European countries the UK is seeing only marginal gains in social progress. We see steadily widening access to the internet and to higher education as the main positives. But there has also been a marked downturn in Inclusiveness. We see increasing violence and discrimination against minorities, particularly since the EU Referendum vote in 2016,  as well as a fall in measures on the acceptance of gays and lesbians.”

Deloitte Global Chairman and Social Progress Imperative board member David Cruickshank said:

“Today, business leaders are embracing the importance of societal impact as a business priority, which is more important than ever before as both business and society are facing a time of transformation and disruption. At Deloitte, we believe business should actively collaborate with organizations such as the Social Progress Imperative to drive policies and initiatives that seek to address and improve the wellbeing of society. Measuring societal impact is key to making a meaningful impact. The Social Progress Index affords us the ability to evaluate our efforts and look beyond economic indicators as the sole measurement of social progress.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. About the Social Progress Index: The Social Progress Index is the first holistic measure of a country’s social performance that is independent of economic factors. The index is based on a range of social and environmental indicators that capture three dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. The 2018 Social Progress Index includes data from 146 countries on 51 indicators. It includes 98% of world population. It is designed as a complement to GDP and other economic indicators to provide a more holistic understanding of countries’ overall performance. The Social Progress Index also provides a practical way to track progress against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2018 Social Progress Index is generously supported by Deloitte, Ford Foundation, Skoll Foundation, and Heron Foundation, along with generous individual donors. Other contributors, including the primary authors Professors Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School, and Scott Stern of MIT, are listed on our website.


  1. About Social Progress Imperative: The Social Progress Imperative’s mission is to improve the lives of people around the world, particularly the least well off, by advancing global social progress by: providing a robust, holistic and innovative measurement tool—the Social Progress Index; fostering research and knowledge-sharing on social progress; and equipping leaders and change-makers in business, government and civil society with new tools to guide policies and programs. From the EU to India to Brazil and beyond, the Social Progress Imperative has catalyzed the formation of local action networks that bring together government, businesses, academia, and civil society organizations committed to using the Social Progress Index as a tool to transform societies and improve people’s lives.


  1. Learn more about the 2018 Social Progress Index and make a gift to support this movement’s mission at http://www.socialprogress.org/.
  1. Top 10 Overall, Bottom 10 Overall. Top: Norway (1), Iceland (2), Switzerland (3), Denmark (4), Finland (5), Japan (6), Netherlands (7), Luxembourg (8), Germany (9), New Zealand (10) Bottom: Central African Republic (146), Chad (145), Afghanistan (144), Eritrea (143), Democratic Republic of Congo (142), Niger (141), Yemen (140), Burundi (139), Papua New Guinea (138), Sudan (137)


  1. Top 10 Inclusive, Bottom 10 Inclusive. Top: Finland (1), Norway (2), Sweden (3), Iceland (4), Denmark (5), Luxembourg (6), Ireland (7), Netherlands (8), Switzerland (9), Germany (10). Bottom: Tajikistan (146), Sudan (145), Yemen (144), Saudi Arabia (143), Chad (142), Mauritania (141), Egypt (140), Iran (139), Ethiopia (138), Burundi (137)
  1. Top 10 Personal Rights, Bottom 10 Personal Rights. Top: Norway (1), Denmark (2), Portugal (3), New Zealand (4), Germany (5), Netherlands (6), Finland (7), Ireland (8), Switzerland (9), Sweden (10) Bottom: Eritrea (146), Yemen (145), Saudi Arabia (144), Laos (143), China (142), Equatorial Guinea (141), Tajikistan (140), Sudan (139), Uzbekistan (138), Swaziland (137)
  1. 13 nations not improved. Declined: Yemen, Thailand, Turkey, US, Brazil, Mauritania. Stagnated: Dominican Republic, Montenegro, Sweden, Costa Rica, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland.
  1. UK Inclusiveness has fallen from 47/100 in 2014 to 62.77/100 in 2018, driven by falls in the Acceptance of gays and lesbians Indicator from 76.91/100 in 2014 to 74.95/100 in 2018.

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