Netherlands world 4th for social & environmental progress

The Netherlands has been ranked fourth in a global index that examines countries by social and environmental performance, as opposed to simply economic output.

First in the Social Progress Index 2014 is New Zealand, followed by Switzerland and Iceland. The lowest scores were found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Social Progress Index 2014

"A society which fails to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, erodes the environment and limits opportunity for its citizens is not succeeding," argue the report’s authors. "Economic growth without social progress results in lack of inclusion, discontent and social unrest."

The Social Progress Index, published by not-for-profit Social Progress Imperative aims to make social progress a priority for politicians and businesses because, as they argue it, to truly advance social progress, it must be comprehensively and rigorously measured.

The index asked three questions:
 Does a country provide for its people’s most essential needs?
 Are the building blocks in place for individuals and communities to enhance and sustain wellbeing?
 Is there opportunity for all individuals to reach their full potential?

The authors then took their measurements in three areas, Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing and Opportunity. Countries were also ranked in individual aspects in each area. (For more information, see the methodology report).

Social progress in the Netherlands high

Within its high overall score, the Netherlands demonstrated strengths and weaknesses in various areas.

The Netherlands does well in Basic Human Needs (8th), with high scores for Water and Sanitation (1st) and Shelter (4th). Where it falls down is in Personal Safety (12th), particularly the level of violent crime.

The Netherlands also scores very highly in Foundations of Wellbeing (3rd), with good scores for Access to Basic Knowledge (6th) and Access to Information and Communication (4th), especially in internet users and press freedom index.

Less impressive were its scores for Ecosystem Sustainability (18th) Health and Wellness (10th), where deaths attributable to air pollution were a cause for concern.

The Netherlands' lowest scoring area was Opportunity (11th). While Personal Rights and Personal Freedom and Choice (both 9th) were high, and Access to Advanced Education and Tolerance and Inclusion (both 10th) were lower, with religious tolerance highlighted as a troubled point.


Social progress around the world

The highest-scoring groups of countries in the world were Australasia, followed by the Nordic countries. Out of the top 10, only the Netherlands, Canada and Switzerland did not belong to either of these areas.

Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland were just outside the top 10, while other large Western European countries were further down the list, with France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all ranked 20-something.

The world’s wealthiest economy, the United States, came 16th, while neighbour Canada was ranked 7th. The highest-ranked South and Central American country was Costa Rica at 25, followed by Uruguay at 26 and Chile at 30.

Japan was far and away the highest-ranked Eastern Asian country at 14, with South Korea next at 28, followed by Malaysia at 45. In Central and South Asia, Sri Lanka was the highest at 85, followed by Kazakhstan at 86 and Mongolia at 89.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the United Arab Emirates was the highest at 37, with Israel at 39 and Kuwait at 40. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa made up much of the bottom of the list, but the highest was Mauritius at 34, then Botswana at 57 and South Africa at 69.

Social Progress Index 2014 Top 10

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


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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