UAE tops MENA list Most Socially Advanced nations

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UAE topped the list of MENA countries ranked in the latest ‘The Social Progress Index‘, which ranked a group of 50 countries by their social and environmental performance, with Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt also making it to the list.

Social Progress Index
Social Progress Index. Photo:Chu/Flickr

The Social Progress Index 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 opportunities to elevate the quality of the discussion on national priorities and to guide social investment decisions.

The Social Progress Index has been designed by Professor Michael Porter and The Social Progress Imperative, in collaboration with economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Additional partners include leading international organisations in social entrepreneurship, business, philanthropy, and academia including Deloitte, Cisco, Skoll Foundation, Fundación AVINA, and Compartamos Banco.

The Index ranked a group of 50 countries are by their social and environmental performance, of which five are from the MENA region; The UAE, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

The Index ranked the United Arab Emirates as the 19th most socially advanced country in the world, whereas the remaining MENA countries’ ranking were clustered between the 25th and 40th percentile as follows: Tunisia 28th, Jordan 31st, Morocco 37th and Egypt 40th.

The Index revealed that Sweden is the most socially advanced country in the world. While Britain is second, Germany ranks fifth, the United States, sixth, and Japan, captured eighth position.

The significance of the Index lies in the fact that it guides nations in focusing their efforts to improve the wellbeing of their people. It arrives at such conclusions by using a statistical technique and the best available data from internationally recognised sources, including the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

Illustrating the need for the Index, Professor Porter says;

“The ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011 and the challenges in Mexico over the last decade have illustrated the shortcomings of economic growth as a proxy for social progress. In both business and economic development, our understanding of success has been incomplete.

Previous efforts to go beyond economic measurement alone have laid important groundwork, but we need a more holistic, comprehensive, and rigorous approach. The Social Progress Index is an attempt to address these gaps and opportunities.

Social progress depends on the policy choices, investments, and implementation capabilities of multiple stakeholders – government, civil society, and business. Action needs to be catalysed at country level. By informing and motivating those stakeholders to work together and develop a more holistic approach to development, I am confident that social progress will accelerate.” — Professor Michael Porter

The Social Progress Imperative asserts that traditional indicators of economic growth do not tell the whole story of a country’s progress. While certainly greater income leads to higher standards of living, it is possible to achieve a high level of social progress at a relatively modest income level or even see the progress regress over time.

No countries score in the top half for all 12 components of the Social Progress Index which are Nutrition and Basic Medical Care; Air, Water and Sanitation; Shelter; Personal Safety; Access to Basic Knowledge; Access to Information and Communication; Health and Wellness; Ecosystem Sustainability; Personal Rights; Access to Higher Education; Personal Freedom and Choice; and Equity and Inclusion.

Some of the key findings from the Social Progress Index include:

Scores on the health and wellness component show no correlation to spending on health as a percent of GDP for the 16 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the Index. This finding poses particular challenges for countries that spend the most on healthcare. The United States, for example, leads OECD nations in total spending per capita on healthcare, but ranks only 11th of the 16 OECD countries in the Social Progress Index on health and wellness.

United Arab Emirates performed the highest in several categories out of the five MENA countries included in the index. Its overall rank was 19th, 11th in Basic Human Needs, and 9th for Personal Safety. The UAE also ranks 30th for Opportunity, which encompasses Personal Rights, Access to Higher Education and Personal Freedom and Choice.

Britain (2nd) and Sweden (1st) perform highly on the Social Progress Index when compared to their performance on the United Nations Human Development Index because they perform consistently across the three dimensions of social progress – basic needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunity – whereas the United States is weaker on foundations of wellbeing and Germany and France are weaker on opportunity. Nearly all rich countries perform poorly on ecosystem sustainability — especially large countries with abundant natural resources like Australia (46th), Canada (47th), and the United States (48th).

Michael Green; “The Social Progress Index shows that countries with similar levels of GDP can have very different levels of social progress. We expect some surprising transfers of knowledge in the next few years, as standout performers – among government, civil society, and business – document and share their approaches.” — Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative

Heather Hancock; “At Deloitte, we believe that business plays a fundamental role in shaping and creating the society of the future. We will only resolve the big issues we face today, globally and regionally, through government, business and civil society working together in new and innovative ways to design and deliver solutions that create a sustainable and prosperous future for all. We believe the Social Progress Index will make it easier for business to understand where and how it can get involved, helping to prioritise social investment decisions, and galvanise collective action.” — Heather Hancock, Managing Director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

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