Friend Pam wrote an article on her blog about how the United States didn’t do so well on the new the Social Progress Index (SPI), a measure of human well-being that goes beyond traditional economic measures such as GDP or per capita income. You can read Pam’s thoughts here: U.S. in the World: Misplaced Pride.
A U.S. non-profit group, the Social Progress Imperative, worked together with the World Economic Forum to create the index. The group looked at 132 countries around the world for the first time, last year they only studied 50. The Social Progress Index is a study meant to compliment the measurement of GDP. The study of the relationship between economic growth and social progress can help countries in understanding how to grow and how social progress can essentially help growth. In other words GDP doesn’t necessarily tell countries what to do while the SPI does give suggestions of where they should centre their attention to evolve.
To explain what the SPI is the folks that did the study created this great YouTube video that assists in enlightening us all:
All of this got me to thinking how my “adopted” country tallies up against my “home” country and so I went exploring further into the SPI website. Canada ranks 7th in the world on the Social Progress Index and Panama rates 38th but those numbers don’t tell the story.
Turns out that Canada is the best performing G8 country. We are behind countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway. But it is ahead of the United States and United Kingdom (two more of our benchmark countries). Costa Rica and Uruguay are the top two countries in Latin America but Chile and Panama are third and fourth. So not too bad Panama!
Top 10 Europe, Oceania, North America:
Top 10 Latin America, Caribbean:
Canada gets its high-ranking from its good scores on personal freedom and choice and on providing opportunity for people to improve their place in society, earning a total score of 87.2 or second place in the “opportunity” category. In contrast Panama earned lower scores in tolerance and inclusion and access to advanced education earning a score of 62.48 or 37th place overall in this grouping.
By my observation access to further education is a problem for those who live out in the countryside. Living costs are relatively low and public universities are free for everyone, but private institutions do charge, with fees varying depending on your course. The problem is that the majority of these institutions are based in Panama City and that is when costs start to climb, giving people already living in the city an advantage over those who have to move from the campo. There are satellite campuses available but they don’t offer all the courses available in the larger centres. It also doesn’t help when The University of Panama suspends classes as they did today at its central campus because of lack of water due to a burst pipe which brings me to the next area…
Panama lags behind is in the basic human needs section. The government is currently undergoing a huge investment in infrastructure to improve potable water and sewer throughout a great part of Panama. They are also investing money into subsidized housing and subsidized mortgages which is encouraging. The area of great concern by my observation is the safety and security section. It seems in our area at least, there just isn’t enough policia to keep everything in check and be proactive and not reactive. I do see many recruitment posters in the towns around the country which is a good thing.
Canada has good scores for basic human needs as well as healthcare and nutrition. There is a problem with access to clean water outside metropolitan areas and ensuring shelter is available to all citizens; particularly in First Nations and Northern communities. Another thing that the citizens and government have to watch is the problem with obesity of the population which adds to healthcare costs. Always a work in progress…
Panama outranked Canada in Ecosystem Sustainability by scoring the 10th spot as opposed to Canada’s 51st spot. Panama scored way behind Canada on the access to information and communications. I don’t know how that was calculated it seems that everyone, even those that live in little tin shacks have cell phones. The mail system in Panama leaves a lot to be desired. In our town there is only a post office and one needs to wait for someone to move or go to the “Great Beyond” to get a box here. On the other hand isn’t that the way that Canada’s postal system is going? We do have access to internet although it’s not always wired in but WiFi with a USB stick works well…most of the time. When the electricity is working, and the stick is recharged, and the moon is aligned in the right spot and there’s not hundreds more people in town trying to use their cellphones sucking our signal and it’s not too windy…
The data gathered for comparison is by no means perfect but still it will hopefully allow countries to benchmark themselves against similar countries and help them to improve. (Remember those terms from school?) FYI, if you look at the list you’ll notice that there is a grouping of Scandinavian countries in the top five. It all makes for some interesting reading in the campo.
* If you’d like to explore or compare further you can find the full website here.
If your brain isn’t ready to burst here’s even more to read!