How is humanity doing overall? Is global human well-being improving or regressing? Since the early 90s there has been a proliferation of quantitative measures that attempt to answer that question. Name a factor that you think might be associated with well-being like education or gender equality or ecosystem sustainability, and there is likely an ongoing effort to measure it. 2013 seems to be a big year for these global measures of well-being. The latest big set of indicators is the Global AgeWatch Index.
(Photo: Kate Holt/HelpAge International)
This past summer Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter released the Social Progress Index (SPI). Building on previous work by several prominent economics including Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, the SPI looks at 52 measures connected with social progress, and provides a global ranking of countries based on the results.
More recent is the Global AgeWatch Index, which accounts for factors under four categories: income security, health status, employment & education, and enabling environments. The AgeWatch Index is published by HelpAge, a UK NGO devoted to helping older people defend their rights and rise above poverty.
Here's the AgeWatch country rankings:
Indices like the SPI or AgeWatch Index have the potential to be powerful instruments of social and political transformation since they give us benchmarks with which to evaluate current realities. Once we're aware that a gap exists between current practice and what's possible, we discover a motivation to act. However, a will to change society and the political means to do so are two different things. No matter how compellingly argued and backed by evidence, even the most revealing indications of social progress (or lack thereof) will be stillborn unless they have advocates. We must all be advocates for the better possible worlds in which we want to live. Being aware of indicators like this is a key step.