1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009)

Social Policy Index (SPI)

  • Project from: 2006 to 2008


The principle objective of constructing a Social Policy Index (SPI) is to enable a greater understanding of the social policy regimes within the broader economic and social structures of each country. This would allow policy makers and researchers to classify countries in terms of their social policy regimes. The SPI will be a composite index, based on inputs, to measure the social policy intention or effort of each country.

There is a genuine desire for such an index on the part of policy makers, experts, and the general public, as it would enable them to assess a country’s policy orientation and to compare it internationally. This exercise is expected to provoke the creation of more reliable disaggregated data on social policy issues and promote further academic and empirical research on social development and policy.

The specific objectives of the SPI are:

1. To compile statistics on social policies in a maximum number of countries.
2. To construct an SPI and subsequently:
  • Rank countries and compare them in terms of their social policies.
  • Assess a country’s social policy over time.
  • Compare this index (input) with outcome measures in order to evaluate policy relevancy.

3. To initiate a general public- and intellectual debate on social development and the usefulness of relevant policies.
4. Classify countries according to the type of their social policy regime.

The SPI builds on and develops previous attempts at measuring general welfare. The project undertakes a substantive review of work undertaken by academic institutions and the UN; in particular, it examines the quantitative approaches to economic and social development. The review of global initiatives to measure welfare reveals a focus on economic over social considerations and a tendency to measure the outcomes of social policy rather than providing an input-based assessment. This serves as the justification for the SPI, which, it is hoped, will contribute to academic inquiry in social policy and serve as useful policy and advocacy tool.

Since its creation in the 1960s, UNRISD has done pioneering work in measuring social development. Early work of UNRISD involved building “Social Indicators of Development” and bringing social variables into econometric development models. The theoretical framework used in the SPI follows closely the findings and approach of the project “Social Policy in Development Context”, which identified social policy as comprising production, protection, distribution and reproduction. Variables in each of these areas are examined in devising the SPI.

A Programme Paper, to be published in 2008, details the review of the literature into measures of welfare, in general, and of social development in particular. The paper goes on to present the framework and methodology in the construction of the SPI and undertakes preliminary analysis of the results.