What SA really needs

IN A follow-up to the Chartbook of Economic Inequality I wrote about in my previous column, the Social Progress Index comprehensively and rigorously measures social progress through a rich framework capturing its multiple dimensions, benchmarking success and catalysing greater human wellbeing.

The dimensions included in the index are:

 - Basic Human Needs;
 - Foundations of Wellbeing; and
 - Opportunity.

Each of these three dimensions is further divided into four sub-categories and the areas in which a country has the greatest opportunity to improve are indicated.

According to the index, we “have significant weakness in the area of Basic Human Needs” and score poorly in terms of Foundations of Wellbeing as well, but highly in terms of Opportunity.

So across the different dimensions, where exactly do we rank?

 - In terms of Basic Human Needs, we rank 94th (out of 132);
 - In Foundations of Wellbeing, we rank 71st;
 - In Opportunity, we rank 40th.

Rather than focusing on the negatives, the remainder of the article will look at the four sub-categories that make up the Opportunities dimension.

The first of the four sub-categories that makes up the Opportunities dimension is Personal Rights, in which South Africa scores an overall 74.94 (out of 100). The relative strengths we have include Political rights, Freedom of assembly/association and Private property rights.

The second of the four is Personal Freedom and Choice, in which we score 70.82. Our relative strengths here include Freedom of religion and Modern slavery, human trafficking and child marriage.

Third on the list is Tolerance and Inclusion with a score of 58.35; our areas of relative strength include Tolerance for homosexuals, Discrimination and violence against minorities and Community safety net.

Lastly, Access to Advanced Education and not too surprisingly (to me at least) is that we scored the lowest here: 40.66.

For the first three sub-categories, there were only areas of relative strength but for Advanced Education we have one relative strength – Number of globally ranked universities – and one relative weakness – Years of tertiary schooling.

My concern is thus a simple one: what good are globally ranked universities when adults over 25, on average, do not even have a sufficient tertiary education and secondly, if you followed my thoughts in my previous article, the majority of South Africans cannot afford university?

The Poverty Trends in South Africa report shows a strong link between an increased level of education and decreased levels of poverty - a better education opens doors to better economic prospects.

Our government needs to focus on the quality of education, so that those living in poverty can find doors to economic prosperity.

 - Fin24

* Geoffrey Chapman is a guest columnist and trade policy expert at the SABS. Views expressed are his own.

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