EU regional social progress index looks beyond GDP
For most of the last century, people have used single-digit growth – gross domestic product (GDP) – to gauge a society’s progress. While this single number is easy to digest for the public, policymakers, and the media, it focuses solely on monetary well-being and doesn’t tell us everything. It ignores other important aspects of people’s lives, including their health and education, and neglects major negative social and external influences such as crime and pollution.
For this reason, the European Commission has developed the European Union Regional Social Progress Index (EU-SPI) to conduct “beyond GDP” discussions in European regions. Because it excludes economic indicators and focuses only on social and environmental factors, the EU-SPI offers a directly comparable measure of social progress between regions in Europe.
EU-SPI 2020 results
The European Commission first published the index in 2016 and published the second enlarged edition of the index at the end of 2020. EU-SPI measures social progress on three dimensions – basic human needs, foundations for good -being and opportunities. Each of these dimensions is broken down into four components, based on a total of 55 indicators, including one in four Gallup Global Poll.
All EU-SPI scores are calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst performance and 100 being the best ideal performance. This scale is determined by identifying the best and worst (possible) global performances for each indicator, regardless of the region of Europe. The EU performs well on basic human needs, with an average score of 80 out of 100, but its performance on other dimensions is gradually deteriorating, with scores of 64 out of 100 and 58 out of 100 on the basis of well-being and dimensions of opportunity, respectively.
Framework of the European Regional Index of Social Progress
|Basic human needs||Foundations of well-being||Opportunity|
|Basic nutrition and health care||Access to basic knowledge||Personal rights|
|Water and sanitation||Access to information and communication||Personal freedom and choice|
|Shelter||health and wellbeing||Tolerance and inclusion|
|Personal security||Environmental quality||Access to higher education|
The 2020 index reveals social disparities which vary considerably both according to regions and according to different aspects of social progress. The Nordic countries perform well on the index, while the South East countries are lagging behind. The top 10 regions are Swedish, Finnish or Danish. The Övre Norrland region in northern Sweden is the most socially developed in the EU for the second time since 2016.
Heat map. All European Union Regional Social Progress Index scores are calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst performance and 100 being the best ideal performance. This scale is determined by identifying the best and worst (possible) global performances for each indicator, regardless of the region of Europe.
The fact that a sparsely populated area in northern Sweden is the most socially advanced in the EU demonstrates that social progress can occur outside of cities. Living in a metropolitan area is not always a guarantee of social progress. Only 10 capital regions perform better than the rest of the country and, in particular, Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Madrid are not the best performers in their country.
Metropolitan regions are starting to make a difference on the opportunity dimension, where they rank first in most countries. This dimension includes indicators describing subtle factors of social progress such as corruption in public institutions, tolerance towards minorities and gender equality.
Many of these metrics come from the Gallup Global Survey and show strong regional variation, with some regions performing very well and others quite poor. The opportunity dimension describes a society as “developed” if it is inclusive and tolerant. These factors are more difficult to improve because they are linked to societal attitudes and people’s trust (“the soft is the hard“).
Likewise, when it comes to quality of life, it is clear that GDP alone is not enough to measure well-being. While GDP and EU-SPI 2020 are positively linked, the richest regions are not necessarily the best performers in terms of social progress, and the poorest regions are not always in last place. For example, the Paris region has a GDP per capita almost 80% higher than the EU average, but its social progress score is 71 out of 100, relatively far from the best.
The EU-SPI helps facilitate comparisons and benchmarking across the EU on a wide range of criteria that help policymakers and stakeholders assess a region’s strengths and weaknesses on purely aspects. social and environmental. Many of these aspects are at the heart of initiatives supported by European public investment in areas such as health, education, water and waste, access to information and communication technologies and energetic efficiency.
Monitoring regional performance on the different components of the EU-SPI helps decision-makers plan the best policy mix, target resources on the most problematic areas and set measurable goals. Through the dashboards and analysis of peer regions in their region, regions can use the EU-SPI to benchmark themselves against others, find regions achieving similar levels of social progress and learn from good practices by focusing on each aspect included in the index.
Discover the EU-SPI and browse a series of interactive web tools that allow users to see how their region is performing.