Social Progress Index

In a recent index called Social Progress Index (SPI), devised by an NGO named Social Progress Imperative, India ranks lower than its neighbours Nepal and Bangladesh. Write a critical note on this index and India’s performance in the same. (200 Words)

Social Progress Index ranks countries on indicators of well-being such as health, water and sanitation, personal safety, access to opportunity, tolerance, inclusion, personal freedom and choice. What makes the SPI unique is that unlike the HDI and the Gross Happiness Index, it doesn’t take into account any economic parameters and therefore advocates the idea that:
  • Measuring progress in monetary terms fails to consider the wider picture of the real things which matter to real people;
  • There is no link whatsoever between economic and social progress.
While it is true that GDP is not a holistic measure of a nation’s development, it would be incorrect to state that the economic progress is completely divorced from progress made in areas mentioned above. It is a rather simplistic approach because economic growth of a country does makes lives better. Therefore, however imperfect, a correlation exists between these two parameters. Therefore, SPI may be faulted for completely ignoring the economic parameters. It would have been able to present a more comprehensive picture had it included economic indicators even with reduced weightage.
India has been ranked 101st among 133 countries much behind the BRICS nations and less  developed countries like Nepal and Bangladesh. Clearly, its performance is less than desirable. It has a long way to go before it can truly claim to have arrived on the world stage. India should realise that just improving the lives of the most well off is not enough. The development model adopted should be truly inclusive and must ensure that the benefits of the economic progress trickle down to the grassroots level resulting in their upliftment.
  • SPI measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens. Fifty-two indicators, in the areas of basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity, show relative performance in order to elevate the quality of discussion on national priorities and to guide social investment decisions.
  • The primary goal of the Social Progress Index is to provide a rigorous tool to benchmark progress and stimulate progress within countries. It mainly measures the indicators of social outcomes, rather than measuring inputs, so as to access the social progress in the country.
  • SPI provides a better way of assessing the quality of development of country, as GDP is too one dimensional, and can be misleading when one tries to assess scale of development through GDP.
  • Several indicators, like GHI and HDI, go beyond GDP, but none captures social progress as finely as SPI.
  • But the index still contains 133 countries, and leaves out many other countries, so this report can be considered as a pre mature report, as several ranks may change by including other countries.
  • India does not display a respectable position in the index, as even the small neighbours like Nepal have a better rank. India is also the lowest rank holder in BRICS.
  • India’s excess focus on GDP may be said as one of the reasons, due to which such indexes are mostly ignored.
  • To improve the rank, the present social beneficiary schemes need to be implemented with better audit mechanism, so as to ensure zero fund leakage and no bogus beneficiary. Skill imparting programs should be diversified to the villages too, so that people can live with a better standard of living.
  • Such measures will help India in achieving a better position in the Index, while simultaneously improving on GDP too, due to more skilled population.



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