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India ranks lower than even Nepal

Social Progress Index puts Norway on top, U.S. at 16th place

Out of 133 countries rated on indicators of well-being such as health, water and sanitation, personal safety, access to opportunity, tolerance, inclusion, personal freedom and choice India has secured the 101th place. This is lower than India’s rank, of 93, for GDP per capita income. Even Nepal and Bangladesh rank higher than India on the Social Progress Index (SPI) ratings to be released globally on Thursday. Norway has bagged the first rank; the U.S. is at the 16th place.

On the parameter ‘Tolerance and inclusion’ India ranks 128th and is at the 120th place on ‘health and wellness’ that, says economist and executive director of the SPI, Michael Green, is the toughest parameter for a country to excel at. As a country becomes richer while tackling sanitation and water becomes easier, tougher challenges emerge such as air pollution and obesity, Dr. Green told The Hindu in an exclusive phone interview. The U.S. despite its high levels of spending on health and wellness ranks 68th.

Even harder to tackle are freedom and tolerance, he says. “The most striking findings for India are the worst performance on the tolerance and inclusion front…It’s a complex problem in a diverse country…another thing I will be watching for as India grows economically is when obesity as a crisis will start hitting.” The SPI was launched in 2013 and is based on 52 indicators of countries’ social and environmental performance. It includes no economic indicators and measures outcomes. The UN’s Human Development Index and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index are also alternate measures for well being but they use GDP or other economic measures.

Focusing exclusively on GDP implies measuring progress in purely monetary terms and failing to consider the wider picture of the real things that matter to real people, Dr. Green says. “GDP isn’t bad but it’s not the whole story… alongside economic growth social progress is more important for policymaking.”

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