Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is no longer seen as the only indicator of a country's development since it focuses only on economic growth. GDP doesn't really capture the inequality that may continue to exist despite so-called economic development. Over time, several alternate measures have been formulated to capture the social dimension of growth.
The Social Progress Index is one such indicator, created by a group of academics. It measures three major domains: basic human needs , foundation of well-being and opportunity .
Each country is ranked according to these domains and then given an overall ranking. The countries topping the list this year are New Zealand, Switzerland and Iceland. Unsurprisingly, India features near the end of the list; it is ranked 102 out of 132 countries.
India faces challenges across all three domains, as the index indicates. India's highest scores are in 'Nutrition and Basic Medical Care' and 'Access to Basic Knowledge' where it is ranked 95 and 94 respectively. Our poorest ranking is in 'Tolerance and Inclusion' where it is ranked 128. Other areas where India performed poorly are 'Ecosystem Sustainability', 'Health and Wellness' and 'Access to Basic Knowledge'.
India ranks poorer than the neighbours
In terms of country comparisons , India is ranked below most of its South Asian neighbours. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal are all ranked higher at 85, 99, 101 respectively. India is also ranked lowest compared to its BRICS counterparts, with Brazil at 46, South Africa at 69, Russia at 80 and China at 90.
The creators of this index draw our attention to the overarching fact that social progress is imperative for a country's development.
For example, the United States which is ranked highest in terms of GDP does not even figure in the top 10 of the Social Progressive Index. Thus indicating that GDP cannot be the sole indicator for development.
The social progress of a nation cannot be ignored anymore, it is an extremely important indicator for development and shows a vital alternative to purely economic figures. The United Nations curated the Human Development Index keeping in mind the principal that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing development in a country.
For now, if India wants to continue on its path of rapid economic growth and development, it must be mindful of the need to invest in social progress as well. As the social index indicates, despite India's economic growth, vast gaps in the domain of social equality continue to exist.
Below is an interactive map that will give a better understanding of where India and other countries stand in the Social Progressive Index.