Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

People relax in the sunshine on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this file photo.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canada is one of the most socially advanced countries in the world, especially when it comes to opportunity for its citizens, though it has room for improvement in areas such as environmental sustainability and obesity rates.

For full ranking, click here.

Canada sits in 6th place of 133 countries – the highest of any G7 nation – in an annual "social progress index" to be released Thursday.

Story continues below advertisement

The index, whose methodology was developed by Harvard economics professor Michael Porter, is meant to complement the traditional measure of gross domestic product in assessing progress. It tracks 52 indicators – from crime levels to literacy rates and gender equality – that reflect whether a country is providing essential needs to its citizens and opportunities for people to improve their lot in society.

"GDP isn't a bad thing. It just isn't the whole story," said Michael Green, executive director of the index, in an interview from London. This index can be used alongside GDP to show whether economic growth is "really leading to improvement in people's lives, to what people are calling inclusive growth and shared prosperity."

"There's a lot of interest now, post-Arab Spring, post financial crisis, as we're recognizing the environmental limits of development, as we worry about inequality, whether growth alone has been a good strategy. So social progress is a tool to help us understand whether our growth is good for us and also which types of growth are good for us."

Canada shines when it comes to opportunity for its people, landing in first place in the world, with high marks for political rights, freedom of assembly and tolerance for immigrants and religious minorities. It fares well in women's average years of school, the number of good universities, high-school enrolment and the low rates of violent crime.

Canada "has a particular strength in opportunity," Mr. Green said, which encompasses factors such as personal rights, inclusion and access to advanced education. This is crucial because opportunity plays a key role in increasing life satisfaction and reflects "what matters in terms of being a good society."

It performs poorly, however, in several other measures such as access to information, particularly in cellphone subscriptions, where it sits in 101st place, which may be due to relatively higher costs and more inflexible plans. It also lags in obesity and suicide rates, along with in habitat protection and water use.

"If you were to ask what is the biggest social-progress challenge Canada faces, it is ecosystem sustainability, in absolute terms," said Mr. Green, adding that this is the area in which other rich countries are underperforming the most.

Story continues below advertisement

Norway sits atop the list as the world's most socially advanced nation. Rounding out the top five are Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland and New Zealand. The United States is a distant 16th place while the lowest-ranked country in the world is Central African Republic. Last year, Canada was ranked No. 7.

Economic strength doesn't always move in lockstep with the overall health of society. The analysis finds some countries – such as Costa Rica, New Zealand and Rwanda – punch above their weight in social progress relative to their GDP per capita. Others, such as Saudi Arabia, underperform relative to their GDP. And two key areas – health and environmental sustainability – don't tend to increase as countries get richer, and thus require concerted efforts to improve, he said.

More cities and countries are using the index to help assess progress, in addition to GDP. Paraguay has adopted the social-progress index to help guide it in making an inclusive-growth long-term development plan, while a number of Colombian and Brazilian cities, including Rio de Janeiro, are using it to track development. The state of Michigan is using it and the European Commission is now adopting it, too, though so far no Canadian city, province or government has.

This isn't the only social indicator – other rankings look at the well-being of nations or happiness levels. And these measures have faced criticism over subjectivity.

Any assessment of "progress" will have a set of values attached to it, said Mr. Green. "People have been arguing over what makes a good society since Aristotle and probably before. And they'll probably argue about it for the next two and a half thousand years."

Its definition is based on academic literature, debate and years of testing. It uses data from the World Health Organization, World Bank, Pew Research Centre and World Economic Forum and weights the indicators to make sure no single measure dominates.

Story continues below advertisement

Dr. Porter said the results show that GDP is "far from being the sole determinant of social progress." And economic growth "that is inclusive and sustainable is important for business and vital for building a prosperous society," said Steve Almond, chairman of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., in a release.

The social progress index, whose methodology was developed by Harvard economics professor Michael Porter, is meant to complement the traditional measure of gross domestic product in assessing progress. It tracks 52 indicators – from crime levels to literacy rates and gender equality - that reflect whether a country is providing essential needs to its citizens and opportunities for people to improve their lot in society.

Social Progress categorization:

• SPI rank 01 – 10: very high

• SPI rank 11 – 31: high

• SPI rank 32 – 56: upper middle

• SPI rank 57 –98: lower middle

• SPI rank 99 – 125: low

• SPI rank 125 – 133: very low

2015 Social progress index

SPI rankSPI scoreCountry
188.36Norway
288.06Sweden
387.97Switzerland
487.62Iceland
587.08New Zealand
686.89Canada
786.75Finland
886.63Denmark
986.5Netherlands
1086.42Australia
1184.68United Kingdom
1284.66Ireland
1384.45Austria
1484.04Germany
1583.15Japan
1682.85United States
1782.83Belgium
1881.91Portugal
1981.62Slovenia
2081.17Spain
2180.82France
2280.59Czech Republic
2380.49Estonia
2479.21Uruguay
2578.45Slovakia
2678.29Chile
2777.98Poland
2877.88Costa Rica
2977.7Republic of Korea
3077.45Cyprus
3177.38Italy
3274.8Hungary
3374.12Latvia
3474.03Greece
3574Lithuania
3673.66Mauritius
3773.3Croatia
3873.08Argentina
3972.79United Arab Emirates
4072.6Israel
4171.79Panama
4270.89Brazil
4370.19Bulgaria
4469.83Jamaica
4569.79Serbia
4669.55Malaysia
4769.19Kuwait
4869.01Montenegro
4968.85Colombia
5068.37Romania
5168.25Ecuador
5268.19Albania
5367.79Macedonia
5467.5Mexico
5567.23Peru
5667.1Paraguay
5766.34Thailand
5866.24Turkey
5966.15Bosnia and Herzegovina
6065.89Georgia
6165.7Armenia
6265.69Ukraine
6365.64South Africa
6465.46Philippines
6565.22Botswana
6664.98Belarus
6764.92Tunisia
6864.31El Salvador
6964.27Saudi Arabia
7063.68Moldova
7163.64Russia
7263.45Venezuela
7363.36Bolivia
7463.31Jordan
7562.71Namibia
7662.62Azerbaijan
7762.47Dominican Republic
7862.2Nicaragua
7962.19Guatemala
8061.85Lebanon
8161.52Mongolia
8261.44Honduras
8361.38Kazakhstan
8460.83Cuba
8560.66Algeria
8660.47Indonesia
8760.42Guyana
8860.1Sri Lanka
8959.91Egypt
9059.71Uzbekistan
9159.56Morocco
9259.07China
9358.58Kyrgyzstan
9458.29Ghana
9556.82Iran
9656.49Tajikistan
9756.46Senegal
9855.33Nepal
9953.96Cambodia
10053.39Bangladesh
10153.06India
10252.41Laos
10352.27Lesotho
10451.67Kenya
10551.62Zambia
10651.6Rwanda
10750.94Swaziland
10850.04Benin
10949.6Congo, Republic of
11049.49Uganda
11148.95Malawi
11248.82Burkina Faso
11348.35Iraq
11447.42Cameroon
11547.27Djibouti
11647.14Tanzania
11746.66Togo
11846.51Mali
11946.12Myanmar
12046.02Mozambique
12145.85Mauritania
12245.66Pakistan
12344.89Liberia
12444.5Madagascar
12543.31Nigeria
12641.04Ethiopia
12740.56Niger
12840.3Yemen
12940Angola
13039.6Guinea
13135.4Afghanistan
13233.17Chad
13331.42Central African Republic
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies