Social Indicators of Development

The main social indicators of development include education, health, employment rates and gender equality.

Some examples of social indicators of development include:

  1. Education levels – for example how many years of schooling children have.
  2. Health – often measured by life expectancy.
  3. Employment Rates
  4. Gender equality
  5. Peacefulness
  6. Democracy
  7. Corruption
  8. Media freedoms
  9. Civil Rights
  10. Crime/ social unrest
  11. Suicide Rates
  12. Composite indicators of all of the above

A well known example of a social indicator of development is the Human Development Index, which combines one economic indicator (Gross National Income) with two social indicators: life expectancy and years of schooling into one score and ranks countries accordingly.

You can also find many specific social indicators of development within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Social Indicators of development give a much broader picture of how developed a country is compared to purely economic indicators such as GDP which merely focus on economic productivity. Social indicators are more useful in showing us the extent to which income generated in a country actually benefits ordinary people.

This post introduces students to the specific indicators which institutions such as the World Bank and United Nations use to measure how ‘developed’ a country is, and the main indices which are used to compare the levels of development of different countries.

Indicators Used to Measure Education and Development

The World Bank uses the following eight core indicators to measure how developed a country is in terms of education:

  • The net enrolment rate for pre-primary
  • The net enrolment rate for primary*
  • The net enrolment rate for secondary education
  • The gross enrolment ratio for tertiary (further) education.
  • Gender parity for primary education (using the gross enrolment ratio)**
  • primary completion rate for both sexes
  • The total number of primary aged children who are out of school.
  • Government expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP.

*The net enrolment rate for primary is ‘the number of pupils of official primary school age (according to ISCED97) who are enrolled in primary education as a percentage of the total children of the official school age population’.

**The gross enrolment rate for primary school The number of children enrolled in primary school (of any age) as a percentage of the total children of the official school age population

The difference between Net Enrolment Rate and Gross Enrolment Rate is explained succinctly in this blog post on NER, GER and Universal Primary Education.

Other social indicators to be covered in a future post…..

Later on I will also cover the following:

  • Health
  • Employment Rates
  • Gender equality
  • Peacefulness
  • Democracy
  • Corruption
  • Consumption
  • Leisure/ Media
  • Civil Rights
  • Crime/ social unrest
  • Suicide Rates
  • Composite indicators of all of the above!!!

I might also cover some of the more subjective indicators of development:

  • Life satisfaction (‘happiness’ indicators)
  • Trust
  • confidence
  • well-being
  • perceived security

Signposting and related posts

This material is mainly relevant to the Global Development and Globalisation module, taught as part of the AQA’s A-level sociology specification.

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