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Slipping on social progress

The Social Progress Index (SPI) is a report compiled by US-based nonprofit Social Progress Imperative with the support of multinational professional services firm Deloitte.

It the latest report that measures social progress to define a nation’s success beyond economic growth, the Philippines fell by five notches compared to last year to place 97th out of 163 countries, giving the country its worst ranking since the report began in 2011.

Instead of looking at the usual metrics like income and investment to determine success, SPI looks at over 50 social and environmental indicators to compute the overall score and ranking.

The Philippines scored 65.73 out of 100 in 2021, slightly worse than its 2020 score of 66.36. Our best ranking was in 2012 when a score of 63.08 gave us a rank of 86th.

SPI defines social progress as the capacity of a society to meet basic needs, establish the building blocks to help people either sustain or enhance the quality of their lives, and create the conditions so everyone can reach their full potential. This is reflected in the three main considerations under the index: human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity. Each of these is made up of indicators which look into various factors such as access to education, freedom of expression and personal safety.

In the case of basic needs, the Philippines ranked 142nd under personal safety, which included deaths from interpersonal violence (rank 151), perceived criminality (rank 88) and political killings and torture (rank 145).

The index also compares how each country performed in an indicator with 15 other countries that have similar gross domestic product per capita. In the case of the Philippines, these included Vietnam, India, Iraq and Laos.

Apart from personal safety, the SPI saw the country underperforming compared to its peers in the following indicators: equal access to quality education, media censorship and equal access to quality health care.

On the other hand, the Philippines did outperform its peers when it came to access to online governance, secondary school attainment, women with advanced education and quality weighted universities.

A steady decline in social progress should be a worrying metric for any government that genuinely wants to measure the nation’s success beyond merely economic growth that could prove empty if society does not improve or grow along with it. It may serve our leaders well to pay attention to indexes like the SPI, at the very least so they have an idea which way the nation should be steered.*

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May 2022
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