Numerous studies have found a high correlation between economic growth and a wide variety of social indicators, yet there is growing awareness that economic measures alone do not fully capture social progress.The Social Progress Index tool is attempting to fix this disparity. It is the brainchild of the famous Harvard Professor, Michael Porter.
The Social Progress Index framework, as this definition suggests, focuses on three distinct (though related) questions:
1 / Does a country provide for its people’s most essential needs?
2 / Are the building blocks in place for individuals and communities to enhance and sustain wellbeing?
3 / Is there opportunity for all individuals to reach their full potential?
These three questions define the three dimensions of Social Progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. The first dimension, Basic Human Needs, assesses how well a country provides for its people’s essential needs by measuring whether people have enough food to eat and are receiving basic medical care, if they have access to safe drinking water, if they have access to adequate housing with basic utilities, and if they are safe and secure.
Foundations of Wellbeing measures whether a population has access to basic education, ideas and information from both inside and outside their own country, and if they have more than basic healthcare and can live healthy lives. This dimension also measures a country’s protection of air, water, and land, resources critical for current and future wellbeing.
The final dimension, Opportunity, measures the degree to which a country’s population is free of restrictions on its rights and its people are able to make their own personal decisions, and whether prejudices or hostilities within a society prohibit individuals from reaching their potential. This dimension also includes the degree to which advanced education is accessible to all those in a country who wish to further their knowledge and skills. Advanced education unlocks almost unlimited personal opportunity. One of the distinguishing features of the Social Progress Index framework is that it integrates Opportunity, an aspect of human wellbeing that is often ignored or kept separate from more foundational and material needs such as nutrition and healthcare, into the definition of social progress. Together, this framework aims to capture an interrelated set of factors that combine to produce a given level of social progress.
Overall, Trinidad and Tobago placed 47th out of 132 countries, which is a commendable placing. Brazil is just above just by a few decimal points. Of issues covered by the Basic Human Needs Dimension, Trinidad and Tobago does best in areas including Nutrition and Basic Medical Care and has the greatest opportunity to improve human wellbeing by focusing more on Personal Safety. Of issues covered by the Foundations of Wellbeing Dimension, Trinidad and Tobago excels at providing building blocks for people’s lives such as Access to Basic Knowledge but would benefit from greater investment in Ecosystem Sustainability. Of issues covered by the Opportunity Dimension, Trinidad and Tobago outperforms in providing opportunities for people to improve their position in society and scores highly in Personal Rights yet falls short in Access to Advanced Education.
This augurs well for the future.