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Human Development Index



Measuring social sustainability


The table summarises three internationally-recognised ways of looking at people's quality of life.

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Human Development Index (HDI)

First published by the United Nations in 1990. It measures quality of life depending on three factors:

  • Life expectancy at birth.

  • Education - measured by the adult literacy rates and the average number of years people spend in full-time education.

  • Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). This measures wealth but also takes into account the differences in prices between different countries.

The index does not look at available natural resources or the quality of the environment.

The Daly-Cobb Index of
Sustainable Economic Welfare

Looks at the average consumption of a country. It also takes the environment into account by looking at factors such as the availability of farmland, amount of urban development and pollution levels.

Genuine Progress Indicator

Developed by Redifining Progress, this indicator tries to indicate the true level of a nations's wealth. It takes into account costs due to factors such as environmental pollution, crime, unemployment and social cohesion.

Taking these factors into account gives a lower figure for a nation's wealth than just looking at its Gross Demestic Product.