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The 10 'most socially advanced countries in the world'

That’s according to a Harvard social and economic ranking study.

THE SOCIAL PROGRESS INDEX is a new metric that measures progress through fulfillment of basic human needs rather than traditional indicators of economic growth.

Via Social Progress Initiative

The index, designed by a team led by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, ranks countries on social and environmental measures that underline wellbeing and opportunity.

“The Social Progress Index shows that countries with similar levels of GDP can have very different levels of social progress,” Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative, said.

One example: The U.S. leads OECD nations in total spending per capita on health care, but ranks only 11th of the 16 OECD countries in the Social Progress Index on health and wellness.

NOTE: There are several notable exceptions to the list of countries examined for the list, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Singapore, and New Zealand. Ireland was not examined.

You may be surprised by some of the inclusions here. What do you think of the list?

1. Sweden is the most socially advanced country in the world

Sweden is ranked 1st in Personal Safety, 3rd in Air, Water, and Sanitation, and 4th in Nutrition and Basic Medical Care. However, it ranked 37th in Ecosystem Sustainability.

In terms of Opportunity, the Scandinavian country has stellar rankings — 2nd overall, 1st in Personal Freedom and Choice and Personal Rights, and 5th in Access to Higher Education. Its lowest score in this category is Equity and Inclusion, with a ranking of 7th.

2. The United Kingdom is clean and healthy

The UK shines in Air Water and Sanitation, where it’s ranked 1st, but it’s 9th in Shelter, 10th in Personal Safety, and 11th in Nutrition and Basic Medical Care.

It also ranks 1st in Health And Wellness as well as Personal Rights while being 5th in Equity and Inclusion. It could improve in the other Opportunity categories, where it ranks 9th in Personal Freedom and Choice and 12th in Access to Higher Education.

3. The Swiss have freedom but lack opportunities

Switzerland did relatively well in Basic Human Needs, ranking 1st in Personal Safety and 3rd in Nutrition/Medical Care, but lagging in Shelter, where it ranked 10th.

However, the country has mediocre ranks in Opportunity, where it’s 1st in Personal Rights but 12th in Equity and Inclusion and 16th in Access to Higher Education. Notably, it struggles with Access to Basic Knowledge, ranked 16th, compared to its 1st place ranking in Access to Info and Communications and 3rd place ranking in Health and Wellness.

4. Canada is a safe bet

Canada ranked 1st in Personal Safety but 8th in Nutrition and Medical Care and 15th in Air, Water, and Sanitation. And it ranked at 47th for Ecosystem Sustainability (remember the Alberta oil sands?).

The country excelled in Opportunity, where it was 4th overall, and 1st in Equity and Inclusion and Personal Rights, but 9th in Access to Higher Education.

5. Germany is a well-oiled machine

Germany performed well in Basic Human Needs, with rankings of 1st in Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, 2nd in Air, Water, and Sanitation, and 3rd in Shelter. But the economic giant ranked 39th in Ecosystem Sustainability.

The country underperformed in Opportunity, where it ranked 10th overall, 13th in Personal Rights, 17th in Access to Higher Education, and 11th in Equity and Inclusion. However it ranks 6th in Personal Freedom and Choice.

6. America’s higher education system promotes freedom

The US lags in Basic Human Needs, ranking 13th in Air, Water, And Sanitation as well as Personal Safety, but improves in Shelter, where it’s ranked 5th. (Ranking 48th in Ecosystem Sustainability does not help any of this.)

The Land of the Free ranked first in Opportunity by having the top Access to Higher Education, 4th-ranked Equity and Inclusion, and 6th-ranked Personal Rights. However, it falls a little short in Personal Freedom and Choice at 7th.

7. Australia gives individuals a long rope

Australia ranked 9th in Air, Water, And Sanitation and 4th in Nutrition and Basic Medical Care. However, it was 22nd in Shelter and 46th in Ecosystem Sustainability.

The country excelled in the Opportunity category, where it ranked 3rd overall, 3rd in Access to Higher Education, 1st in Personal Rights, and 6th in Equity and Inclusion.

8. The Japanese feel safe and sheltered

Japan ranked 1st in Shelter and 4th in Personal Safety, but lagged in Air, Water, and Sanitation (10th), Nutrition (12th), and Health and Wellness (10th). It also ranked 40th in Ecosystem Sustainability.

The country performs well in Personal Rights, where it ranked 8th, but ranked 26th in Personal Freedom and Choice, 20th in Equity and Inclusion, and 15th in Access to Higher Education.

9. France is above average all round

France ranked 7th in Air, Water, And Sanitation but 14th in Shelter and 36th in Ecosystem Sustainability.

The country has middling ranks for Opportunity, where it ranked 11th overall. It ranks 8th for Personal Freedom and Choice and 11th for Personal Rights, but 15th for Equity and Inclusion and 14th in Access to Higher Education.

France’s social policy lurched forward this week when the country legalised gay marriage after a harsh debate.

10. You’ll have a great life in Spain (if you can find a job)

Spain ranked 5th in Air, Water, And Sanitation but 27th in Shelter and 41st in Ecosystem Sustainability.

The country shined in regards to Opportunity, where it ranked 6th overall, 4th in Access to Higher Education, and 3rd in Equity and Inclusion.

The big issue for Spain is that 57.2 per cent of under-25s are out of work, which means that frustrated youths are leaving in droves.

- Michael Kelley and Rebecca Baird-Remba

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Published with permission from:

Business Insider
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