“According to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s (Deloitte Global) Chairman, Steve Almond, the world is overly obsessed by GDP statistics as a defining measure of national progress or local progress. And while the research behind the Social Progress Index has shown that there is a very strong correlation between growth in GDP per capita and enhancement in social progress at an early stage along the development line, the further you look at the richer a country gets, the greater there are diversions between GDP growth and social progress.”
—The Social Progress Index Seeks To Redefine Economic Success Measures, by Bruce Rogers, April 28, 2015, Forbes, U.S.A.
Commentary: Ron Robins
The diversions in growth between GDP and alternative social progress measures are present in most developed countries. In part, it is due to greatly increased goods and service volumes in developed countries with a corresponding decrease in, most particularly, costs associated with environmental degradation, resource depletion and climate change. Furthermore, there comes a point — such as in public health where once good basic sanitation and clean water are universally available, only incremental gains in health might be had even with greatly increased public expenditures related to sanitation and water. Thus, significant gains in GDP may have only small benefits in many areas of society and perhaps benefiting a relative few.
However, as inferred in the Forbes article, public health measures focused on such issues as obesity and poor lifestyles that lead to considerable human suffering and hugely increased health care costs, could be very cost effective. And this is where indices such as the Social Progress Index are of tremendous value. They re-focus society’s attention on social, environmental and other areas where cost benefit gains can be huge, measurable — while greatly improving our quality of life. Furthermore, such measures help define our progress towards an enlightened era and economy.