What are the elements that fundamentally influence an individual’s ability to achieve even the basic levels of happiness, wellbeing and the ability to lead a productive and fulfilling life?
The Social Progress Imperative set out to answer this question when they established three “umbrella” factors of the Social Progress Index 2014 report (SPI): Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing and Opportunity. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a basis for other similar studies, was used only as a mechanism by which to identify similar countries in terms of resources, but the measurement does not connect to the needs of people in today’s world – nor do other indices associated with economic development – according to Renato Souza, Director of Communication & Marketing at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s Sao Paolo, Brazil office.
GDP was created at the end of WWII to help measure the development of nation’s that had been destroyed but the needs of society have changed and greater emphasis is being placed on real impact of social and environmental progress. “The SPI tries to understand the social development of a country,” explains Souza. “Of course this is a disruptive way to understand. When we see the BRICs grow today – Brazil doesn’t have the GDP, for example, but China has the world’s second largest economy. But Brazil is at the top of the BRICs with social progress – but it doesn’t mean that Brazil doesn’t have a lot of work to do.”
Perhaps it may come as a surprise that the rankings of United States do not tower far above other nations. Even though the scores were calculated as a comparison to countries with similar per capita GDPs, it is interesting to compare the US’ scores with Latin American countries. With the exception of the Opportunity category, where the US scores 82.54 as compared to Latin America’s low-50s to mid-70s, the country is on par with its Latin American neighbors. For example, in the Foundations of Wellbeing segment, the US scores 75.96 whereas Brazil scores 75.78, Colombia scores 75.72, Ecuador scores 75.97 and Costa Rica sits higher than the rest at 80.53.
See the table below for a comparative study of the US vs. select Latin American countries:
The structure, research and compilation of the in-depth SPI findings were supported by Deloitte Touche, among other organizations, and Michael E. Porter, the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at the Harvard Business School Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, and a leading authority on competitive strategy and the competitiveness and economic development of nations, states, and regions.
Looking at the specific components, and using Brazil as the average for other Latin American countries, Souza points out that the country is doing well in terms of personal freedom, tolerance and respect but access to higher education and personal safety are lacking. “Economic indexes would not be able to portray these findings,” he says.
“When we talk about wellbeing and the workplace, there is not a direct connection [with the SPI] but certainly the whole context of those topics expresses the wellbeing of a specific society which influences the workplace environment,” Souza says.
When formulating the three main factors, the researchers considered things which really matter to people and have a direct impact on individual wellbeing. “The issue of access to education – which is quite different than getting a higher education – we are talking about access to basic knowledge and Brazil is in a better situation [than it has been in the past],” Souza observes. This advancement reflects the social policies and investment the Brazilian government made in basic education. “This doesn’t mean the quality is good but access has been improved and this means that it will turn into opportunities for higher education and jobs.”
According to Souza a lack of a qualified workforce in Brazil is an issue and this has a direct effect on wellbeing, access to higher education and the workplace environment. Additionally, Brazil’s economy is growing faster than the talent pool and the workforce will not be able to adequately meet new demands, putting strain on those already in key positions thus causing discontent. Souza declares, “People [in Brazil] don’t have the same capabilities that the market needs and this is a reflection of a historical problem – that is access to a good quality education.”
When looking at the Opportunities segment, for example, it is important to realize that the factors considered (Personal Rights, Personal Freedom and Choice, Tolerance and Inclusion and Access to Advanced Education) are significant for younger generations whose decisions are based upon their evaluation of these factors when they start careers. Social values are especially important to “New Millennials,” and should be considered, especially in countries, like Brazil, where the younger generations are the majority. And when reviewing the titles of each element of the SPI it is easy to correlate them to the concept of wellbeing in the workplace.
Click here to view the complete country scorecards.