Of the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — only India ranked lower than the 100th position on the list of the Social Progress Index 2014 compiled by US-based non-profit group Social Progress Imperative.
China was next lowest of the five, in the 90th position, and Brazil was the highest, at 46th.
Using measures of access to basic human needs such as food and shelter and of equality of opportunity such as education and personal freedom, the index aims to measure quality of life throughout the globe.
Last year the first Social Progress Index ranked 50 countries. This year, its ranking includes 132 countries around the world.
New Zealand tops the list followed by Switzerland, Iceland and Netherlands. Chad ranks the lowest in the index.
India ranks 102nd on social progress with challenges across all three dimensions with particularly low scores on shelter (39.77) in the basic human needs dimension, access to information (39.87) in the foundations of wellbeing dimension, and tolerance and inclusion (21.54) in the opportunity dimension.
The basic human needs dimension comprises parametres of nutrition and basic medical care, water and sanitation, shelter and personal safety.
The foundations of wellbeing includes parametres of access to basic knowledge, information and communications, health and wellness and ecosystem sustainability, while opportunity dimension includes personal rights, freedom and choice, tolerance and inclusion and access to education.
The report said that while the BRICS are generally seen as areas of great economic growth potential, social progress performance is mixed at best.
Only Brazil (46th) ranks better on social progress than it does on GDP per capita (57th). Russia has a higher GDP than Brazil (39th) yet ranks lower on the Social Progress Index (80th); South Africa is 58th on GDP and 69th on social progress; China is 69th on GDP and 90th on social progress; and India is 94th on GDP and 102nd on social progress.
Central and South Asia trails all regions but Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of overall index performance.
The top performers for the region are Sri Lanka (85th), Kazakhstan (86th) and Mongolia (89th).
“Tracking social progress trends over time will be important for understanding the speed with which social progress responds to changes in economic performance. It remains to be seen how quickly fast-growing economies such as India and China, that currently underperform on social progress relative to their GDP per capita, can turn economic success into improving social conditions,” the report said.
“The Social Progress Index provides evidence that extreme poverty and poor social performance often go hand-in-hand,” it said.