THOMPSON: Latest quality of life index casts shade on North America | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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THOMPSON: Latest quality of life index casts shade on North America



If you thought your quality of life slipped just a little last year, you’d be right. Maybe you didn’t even notice, but the latest Social Progress Index (SPI) - an annual measure of the quality of life worldwide - casts more shade than light on life in North America in 2022.

Canada, Mexico and the United States all fell in the rankings, Canada sliding from sixth to tenth, the U.S. from 24th to 25th, and Mexico from 64th to 68th. The Index - the culmination of the work of Nobel Prize-winning economists - is administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD was founded in 1961 and has 70 partners - members of academia, not-for-profit organizations, government and business - spanning 45 cooperative member nations that promote democracy and market economies. The index ranks 169 countries whose population exceeds 2.5 billion people.

This is the twelfth year of the SPI rankings...which is neither a touchy-feely measure of people’s happiness and fulfillment nor a measure of Gross Domestic Product and the economy.

Rather, it considers 60 factors like Nutrition, Safety, Environment, Freedom, Healthcare, Inclusiveness, Access to Information and Communications, and Education, among others, to quantify quality of life.

You might think economic development drives progress on social issues…but that is not necessarily so. While economic prosperity can and does bring major improvements in Access to clean water, Sanitation, Literacy and Basic Education, it has little effect on Personal Security or Inclusiveness.

Quality of life has improved worldwide over 12 years…but the progress is slowing each of the past five years. In fact, the OECD said 2023 could mark the first retreat…a progress “recession” of sorts, primarily due to the effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and risks from climate change, economic turbulence and political change.

The nations in the Top Ten remained the same as last year…though Germany moved up from tenth to eighth; Switzerland and Iceland traded places, with the Swiss moving up to fourth and Iceland dropping to fifth. Likewise, Finland changed with Denmark, dropping to third, with the Danes rising to number two. Norway remained first.

Just four nations have declined every year in the SPI rankings…the United Kingdom, Libya, Syria and Venezuela. The steady slip of the U.K. points to it’s Brexit decision, which has diminished every area from Education and Healthcare to Rights and Tolerance.

Nearly two-thirds - 111 nations - have seen a steady decline in personal rights over the 12 years of the rankings. Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. are among those and the only G7 members that have lost ground.

Perhaps the U.S. more than any other nation has done less with more. Despite its wealth and power, the U.S. has been mostly stagnant or losing ground in the SPI rankings for 12 years.

The U.S. rankings for Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Health and Wellness and Access to Basic Knowledge barely make it in the Top 100. Almost every so-called advanced country has cleaner air and water, better sanitation and more reliable Internet access than the U.S.

The inequities of wealth are dramatic in the U.S., with the three wealthiest Americans having more assets than poorest 150 million Americans. And nowhere on Earth can match the U.S. in the number of guns owned by its citizens.…with over 400 million guns and 331 million people…if you count children.

Next year the more full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the SPI rankings. The threat of authoritarian governments and decline of democracy - if unchecked - are likely to dampen the quality of life worldwide, as well.

The best way to keep fascism and totalitarianism at bay is to not become part of the silent majority, letting extremists control not only the dialogue but how we govern. The need to stay informed and exercise the right to vote have never been more important in any democratic nation.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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