What is a Social Progress Index?

The scene at a railway station in Sweden: the country provides a high standard of living to its citizens including sound infrastructural facilities. Editorial credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com.

Social progress refers to what a country is doing or can do to improve its socio-political and economic infrastructure. This progress happens through direct human involvement in social enterprises. Social development of a country is measured by the use of the Social Progress Index.

What Is Social Progress Index (SPI)?-4p

A Social Progress Index (SPI) is the extent to which a country is involved in the provision of the socio-environmental needs to its people. Social progress is determined by a country’s policy choices, investment, and the ability of various stakeholders to implement various development policies. In measuring social progress, 54 indicators in the area of basic or vital human needs, well-being, and opportunities to progress are considered to show how a country performs relative to other countries. The SPI defines social progress as the ability of society to cater for the people’s basic needs, create the building blocks which allow its people to improve and maintain the quality of life and create relevant conditions for all citizens to achieve their full potential. The SPI is published by a non-profit Social Progress Imperative which is US based and was formed in 2012. The SPI bases its work on the works of economists Douglass North, Joseph Stiglitz, and Amartya Sen.


The SPI combines three dimensions namely basic needs, the foundation of well-being, and opportunity. Each of the three dimensions includes four components which are made up of three to five indicators. The indicators selected are measurable with a consistent methodology across all the organizations of the countries under consideration. The method aims to highlight different interrelated factors revealed by the writings of Joseph, Douglass, and Amartya. The key features of the SPI are mainly twofold: the inclusion of the economic variable and use of the results rather than the inputs. The Social Progress Imperative, therefore, evaluates hundreds of possible indicators in developing the SPI.

History Of The SPI

In 2010, Global leaders sought to develop a more reliable measure of a country’s level of development and further understand its priorities leading to the formation of Social Progress Imperative and the launching of a better version of the SPI. The work was informed by the contribution of Amartya Sen on social development. The SPI was published in 2014 with 133 countries ranked while a better version of it was released in 2015. The methodology used to create SPI has also been used to create a socio-environmental performance in some areas around the world.

Top 20 Countries By Social Progress Index

RankCountrySocial Progress Index
1 Norway90.26
2 Iceland90.24
3 Switzerland89.97
4 Denmark89.96
5 Finland89.77
6 Japan89.74
7 Netherlands89.34
8 Luxembourg89.27
9 Germany89.21
10 New Zealand89.12
11 Sweden88.99
12 Ireland88.82
13 United Kingdom88.74
14 Canada88.62
15 Australia88.32

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