What is the best country in the world? You can’t tell by looking at Gross Domestic Product alone, say leading economists. Because GDP overlooks important factors like access to electricity, health, property rights, and religious tolerance.

GDP ‘outdated’

“Take the Arab Spring. You had a bunch of countries who were performing really well economically, and then suddenly this social collapse. Clearly a policy based simply on economic growth wasn’t working for social harmony,” says Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Imperative. His organisation wants to complement GDP with a Social Progress Index (SPI) ‘to provide a holistic assessment of a country’s overall progress’. The SPI collates data on 52 welfare indicators relating to people’s most essential needs, the foundations of wellbeing, and opportunities for all individuals to reach their full potential.

SPI ‘measure of inclusivity’

In 2015, Norway topped the SPI, but countries with a considerably lower GDP can do well too. Costa Rica, for example, is extremely good in turning its wealth into well-being. Meanwhile, some leading industrial nations underperform. “Unlike GDP, a country cannot boost its SPI score just by improving the lives of the most well off, or even the majority. The index is therefore a powerful measure of inclusivity,” says Green. Initiatives using the index are under way at national or local level in more than 40 countries. Paraguay, Michigan and major cities across Latin America are prime examples.

Sources: bbc.co.uk, ted.com, theguardian.com, ec.europa.eu

Karen Glerum
Global Connection Expat Partner Support

Adapted and edited from an original article, in Global Connection’s media for spouses (B2B subscription), on the subject of expat life.