Plotting social progress: 

Plotting social progress


  • India needs a cohesive measure of social progress in individual States as the country has now transformed itself into one of the fastest growing major economies.
  • The economic achievements are extensive but the potential for growth remains strong despite some slackening.

How to measure the growth?

  • The societal reach of this economic growth still remains unquantified.
  • There have been efforts to track individual social outcomes such as health, education and safety.
  • The National University of Educational Planning and Administration and the Government of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education and Literacy) have computed an Educational Development Index for primary and upper primary levels of education that compare States on different aspects on education universalization.
  • NITI Aayog has rolled out the health, education and water index.
  • There have also been efforts to look at progress through the lens of a human development index but that does not isolate the impact of economic growth.

What is required?

  • A Social Progress Index could bridge this gap.
  • States get ranked using social and environmental indicators on the basis of their capability to provide for basic needs such as shelter, water, and sanitation.
  • A foundation for well-being with education, health, and communication facilities; analyzing the prejudices that prevail in a region prohibiting people from making their personal decisions; and evaluating whether citizens have personal rights and freedom or whether they are susceptible to child labour, human trafficking, corruption, etc.
  • A study conducted (2005-2016) helps analyse whether States, especially using social and environmental indicators, are heading in the right direction. It is also essential to help adjust policies as well as public and private investments.

What are the major findings?

  • The overall social progress score for the country now stands at 57.03 (on a 0-100 scale), approximately eight points higher than in 2005.
  • The country performs better in the provision of basic human needs rather than opportunities for its citizens. Therefore, creation of a society with equal opportunities for all still remains an elusive dream. All the States have climbed the social progress ladder, with the group of States that had the worst performance in 2005 — Tripura, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Bihar — now showing improvement, suggesting that the States with a relatively low level of social progress can improve rapidly.
  • States that have achieved a threshold level of social progress, driving improvements becomes more difficult. This is backed by the fact that average improvement is the lowest among the group of States that were categorised as “Very High Social Progress” in 2005.
  • The third major finding is that the greatest improvements have been in areas where social progress most often accompanies economic prosperity.
  • Areas where performance has declined or stagnated is where the correlation with economic development is weak, suggesting that States should focus on policies that target social issues. The focus on economic parameters will result in unbalanced social development.


  • The overall findings show that while the economy is on the right track, there is an urgent need to identify and focus on social parameters.
  • The reliance on the idea that economic development will automatically transform social condition will hinder further improvements in social progress.
  • Social progress needs to be stimulated by focussing on policies directly targeting social issues.
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