Aiming high on social progress

The recent Social Progress Index report, developed by Deloitte UK in conjunction with the Social Progress Imperative, found even high economic growth will not get the world close to meeting the UN’s new Global Goals initiative.

Social progress will instead rely on governments, civil society, and businesses working together to build better and stronger societies.

The Global Goals were agreed last September by 193 world leaders, who committed to 17 goals and under three key objectives over the next 15 years: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.

Expected economic growth will likely raise the world’s average annual income from US$14,000 to $23,000 by 2030. But using a range of information from the Social Progress Index, unless other measures are taken to support this rate of economic growth, human wellbeing is predicted to only grow at a fraction of this rate, with social progress rising from an Index score of 61, to only 62.4 out of 100.

To achieve the Global Goals, the world’s social progress score will have to reach at least 75, based on the finding that, even if real per capita GDP doubled over the next 15 years, that alone would not be enough to achieve the goals.

Business as usual will not get this done. Instead the world will need a ‘productivity revolution’ in creating social value to meet the UN’s new goals. This will require culture shifts, scaling social innovations and greater cross-sector collaboration, among other factors.

Luckily, a number of countries are showing the way. Costa Rica, for example, with an average annual income of just US$13,000, has achieved a social progress score of 77.9. If all countries could achieve a similar level of over-performance, global social progress could reach 72.7.

Areas that need to see the biggest improvement include: tolerance and inclusion (in China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia), water and sanitation (in Indonesia and Nigeria), and access to advanced education (in India and Brazil).

These countries represent a ‘big six’ of opportunities for social progress growth. Because of their projected population growth over the next 15 years, they can make a large contribution to the global goals by focusing on the areas where they receive low component scores in comparison to countries with similar incomes.

Collaboration will be needed if we are to meet the Global Goals. Many businesses, for example, are now looking to the long-term, recognising that a healthier society makes for a healthier bottom line.

The 2015 Index results rank Australia as the world’s 10th most socially advanced nation, despite being held back by a lack of affordable housing and under-performance in ecosystem sustainability. Projections through to 2030 see us maintaining our position in the top ten (moving up to ninth).

In other words, we are predicted to continue to do well, but there will still be plenty of room for improvement.

The aspirational goal set for Australia is to reach 99.57 by ‘over-achieving’ the trend line of the high social progress group by 15%. To do this we will need to improve in all areas, but the greatest gains will be needed in ecosystem sustainability and access to advanced education.

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