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Study: Swiss among world’s most socially progressive

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Study: Swiss among world’s most socially progressive
Photo: Janek Skarzynkski/AFP
11:07 CEST+02:00
Switzerland is one of the world’s top five socially progressive countries, according to a new report.

The alpine country came fifth in the 2016 Social Progress Index, which ranked 133 countries based across 53 social and environmental indicators including the level of opportunity, healthcare, education and tolerance.

Published on Wednesday by the US-based non-profit organization the Social Progress Imperative, the index named Finland as the most socially progressive country in the world.

Placing fifth after Canada (2nd), Denmark (3rd) and Australia (4th), Switzerland scored particularly highly for water and sanitation facilities, adult literacy rate and safety, including its low level of violent crime.

But Switzerland fared badly when it came to the availability of affordable housing (ranking 24th) and the rates of obesity (62nd) and suicide (94th).

The Index also revealed Switzerland’s relative weakness in areas including freedom of speech (20th), freedom of religion (58th) and tolerance of immigrants (33rd), reflecting a global challenge.

Tolerance and inclusion is one area “where even the more advanced countries can struggle to score highly,” said the report.

“'Tolerance and inclusion’ and ‘personal rights’ are also less correlated with GDP per capita while ‘environmental quality’ improves only marginally as GDP per capita increases.”

Money has less to do with social progress than could be assumed, said the report. First placed Finland has a much lower GDP ($38,535) than Switzerland ($55,260) yet fared better.

While social progress does tend to rise as GDP increases, “economic wealth on its own does not explain social progress outcomes,” said the report.

In a statement, Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative, said: “The Social Progress Index proves that GDP is not destiny. We need more countries to be like Costa Rica, which squeezes a lot of social progress out of its modest GDP.”


Social progress vs GDP. Source: Social Progress Index.

Though Switzerland has fallen two places since the 2015 index, the organization said this year’s results cannot be compared due to changes in the way the index is compiled.

David Cruickshank, Global Chairman of Deloitte, which sponsored the Index, said: “As the world faces an increasingly complex set of global challenges, the Social Progress Index serves as a roadmap that can guide policy investments, business decisions, and resources.”

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