Netherlands in top 10 of 2015 Social Progress Index

The Netherlands has placed ninth in the third edition of the Social Progress Index, a project forming part of the Social Progress Imperative network.

Though having dropped slightly in rank since the 2014 edition of the index, in which it placed fourth, the Netherlands still stands ahead of many other Western European countries.

The Social Progress Index

Headed by Harvard School of Business professor Michael Porter, the Social Progress Index is intended to broaden conceptions of a country's "progress" beyond narrow indicators like GDP, and to encourage policy-makers to focus on enabling citizens to reach their full potential.

In order to better represent the actual health of a society, the index measures only social and environmental - not economic - indicators. These are grouped into three categories:

 Basic Human Needs 

This category covers such factors as nutrition, medical care access, shelter, personal safety and water and sanitation.

 Foundations of Wellbeing

For this category, analysts looked at a population’s access to basic knowledge, access to information and communications, health and wellness, and ecosystem sustainability.


Opportunity comprises personal rights, freedom and choice, tolerance and inclusion, and access to advanced education.

The 2015 version of the index ranks 133 countries, and provides partial data on a number of others.

The Netherlands’ performance

The Netherlands’ high ranking is chiefly due to its strength - fifth place - in the Foundations of Wellbeing category.

A sophisticated digital infrastructure, with a high number of internet users, means it has excellent access to information and communications compared to other countries with a similar GDP per capita. 

On the other hand, the Netherlands received relatively poor marks in the ecosystem sustainability sub-category. 

Its rate of water withdrawals as a percentage of resources was highlighted as a problem area. In the Basic Human Needs category the Netherlands placed ninth, with top marks for water and sanitation.

The Netherlands scored 14th in the Opportunity category. Though Dutch society has a notably welcoming attitude towards homosexuals, it is less tolerant of religious differences.

Moreover, the country has room to improve in access to higher education for women, who generally spend less time studying than men.

Social Progress trends

In this year’s index, the Netherlands ranks higher than the UK, Belgium, France and Germany, none of which quite made the top 10.

As in previous years, the most successful nations on the list are generally Nordic and Australasian, with a few exceptions. At the bottom, Middle-Eastern and African countries are concentrated.

The Social Progress 2015 top 10

1 Norway
2 Sweden
3 Switzerland
4 Iceland
5 New Zealand
6 Canada
7 Finland
8 Denmark
9 Netherlands
10 Australia
Emily McCallum


Emily McCallum

Emily grew up in a small coastal town in western Canada and moved to Utrecht in 2014, after completing her studies in Vancouver and Germany. So far, she has been...

Read more



Leave a comment