The Importance of Freedom and Choice in Prosperity

Report

The Importance of Freedom and Choice in Prosperity

12 Nov 2014

The Centre Religion & Geopolitics takes a look at the findings from the 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index, which aims to show how prosperity is understood and changing around the world. For more socio-economic data, take a look at our recently launched data section.

The 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index was published by the Legatum Institute on 4 November 2014. The annual Index ranks 142 countries across the following sub-indices: Economy; Entrepreneurship & Opportunity; Governance; Education; Health, Safety & Security; Personal Freedom; Social Capital.

Prosperity covers wellbeing, security, personal freedom and social capital.

The Index bases itself as being the only global measurement of prosperity based on both income and wellbeing where traditionally a nation's prosperity has been based primarily on economic indicators such as GDP or average income per person. The focus of the Index has shifted to look at wellbeing and every day life because research has shown that prosperity is based on a broad range of indicators, particularly how people go about their day-to-day life.

With this shift in direction, we can look at the findings from the index in terms of the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics and the role that religion plays in people's everyday lives. There are many factors in the index which have an impact on religion and geopolitics, and it is interesting to note that within the sub-indices we see the following:

  • Governance: the rule of law, separation of powers and government stability are measured;
  • Health, Safety & Security: group grievances, internally displaced people and demographic instability are measured;
  • Personal Freedom: tolerance of minorities, and civil liberty and free choice are measured;
  • Social Capital: trusting others and religious attendance are considered.

Many of the above measures are also important when considering the role of religion in conflicts around the world, and it is encouraging to see the Legatum Index using such a broad range of indices, including on freedoms and social capital, which includes looking at minorities and religious attendance.

The top 10 ranked countries with the highest levels of prosperity for 2014 are: 1. Norway, 2. Switzerland, 3. New Zealand, 4. Denmark, 5. Canada, 6. Sweden, 7. Australia, 8. Finland, 9. Netherlands, 10. United States.

The Central African Republic has the lowest levels of prosperity in 2014.

The bottom 10 ranked countries with the lowest levels of prosperity for 2014 are: 142. Central African Republic, 141. Chad, 140. Democratic Republic of the Congo, 139. Burundi, 138. Yemen, 137. Afghanistan, 136. Togo, 135. Haiti, 134. Sierra Leone, 133. Guinea.

At the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics we are trying to encourage measures such as religious demography to be seen alongside and integrated within others socio-economic and civil-political factors, such as land use, population density, internally displaced people and net migration.

Below we draw out some of the findings from a selection of the countries we are focusing on for the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, and how the rankings have changed in the Index over the past year: 

Afghanistan: Is ranked 137 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, rising two places since 2013. The country sits low in all indices, and has fallen in terms of personal freedoms and social capital in the last year.

  • 58% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 83% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2013) and 68% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2010).

Egypt: Is ranked 116 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, this is a fall of eight places since 2013.  The country sits relatively low in all indices, and fairs particularly badly in personal freedoms for 2014, ranked 141 out of 142.

  • 47% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 22% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2011) and 61% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2008).

Indonesia: Is ranked 71 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, falling two places since 2013. The country sits at a mid-level in most indices, and performs best in the Social Capital sub-index, where it ranks at 33. 

  • 78% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 72% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2013) and 79% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2010).

NigeriaIs ranked 125 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, this is a fall of two places since 2013. Nigeria's best performance is in the Economy sub-index, ranking 97 in 2014. 

  • 62% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 64% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2013) and 94% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2010).

Pakistan: Is ranked 127 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, a rise of five places since 2013. The country sits low in all indices, and is ranked 139 out of 142 in the Safety and Security sub-index.

  • 44% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 67% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2013) and 55% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2010).

Philippines: Is ranked 67 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, falling one place since 2013. The country sits at a mid-level in most indices, and performs best in the Economy sub-index, where it ranks at 40. The country is lowest (111) in the Safety and Security sub-index.

  • 91% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 56% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2013) and 72% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2010).

Thailand: Is ranked 51 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, rising one place since 2013. The country sits at varying levels in the sun-indices, ranking a high (13) in the Economy sub-index but ranking low (130) in the Personal Freedom sub-index.

  • 78% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 31% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2012) and 74% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2010).

Yemen: Is ranked 138 out of 142 countries in terms of overall prosperity in 2014, this is a fall of two places since 2013. The country sits low in all indices, and has the lowest ranking of 142 in the Personal Freedom sub-index.

  • 54% of people asked said they were satisfied with freedom of choice (2013), 20% said it was a good place for ethnic minorities (2013) and 54% said they attended a place of worship in the past week (2010).
Key Findings: 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index

Americas

  • The US is not the freest country in the Americas. The country is 21st in the Personal Freedom sub-index, after Canada (5th), Uruguay (8th), and Costa Rica (15th)

Asia-Pacific

  • The five countries with the highest marriage rates in the world are all in Asia (China 80%, Bangladesh 76%, Nepal 76%, Laos 73% and Sri Lanka 73%).
  • Pakistan has recorded the lowest level of satisfaction with freedom of choice in the region for each of the last five years (it stands at 44%, the global average is 73%).
  • The only country in the region not to improve its Prosperity score since 2009 is India. This has been driven by large drops in the Safety & Security (down 26 places to 119th, globally) Governance (down 16 places to 56th), Personal Freedom (down 31 places to 78th) and Social Capital (down eight places to 132nd) sub-indices.
  • The most optimistic country in the world in thinking working hard gets you ahead (99%), Indonesia is also Asia's biggest climber since 2009, rising 20 places as a result of impressive performance in almost all sub-indices.

Europe

  • Eastern Europe is struggling to match the levels of Governance, Personal Freedom, and Social Capital of Western Europe. However, the two halves of the continent do not differ greatly in terms of Education and Health.
  • More of Europe is going backward economically than forward. Of the 33 European countries in our Index for which we have six years of data, only eight have risen up the rankings on the Economy sub-index since 2009, while 25 have fallen. Greece is the biggest faller, dropping 57 places in six years.

Middle East and North Africa

  • Yemenis report the lowest levels of volunteering and donations in the world. Only 4% of Yemenis reported donating to charity in 2014, and only 3% reported volunteering.
  • The MENA region is below the world average for all sub-indices except Health and Education.
  • Since 2009 Turkey has fallen seven places down the Personal Freedom rankings. The country is now ranked 134th, below Russia and Venezuela.
  • Over six years Syria has declined the most in the MENA region. The country is now ranked 129th; given the ongoing tumult in the country, it is likely to fall again next year.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Nine of the bottom 10 countries for Health are in Sub-Saharan Africa: Angola; Guinea; Zambia; Burundi; Mozambique; Democratic Republic of Congo; Chad; Central African Republic; and Sierra Leone.
  • But, eight of the top 10 most improved countries in Health are in sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania (121st); Mozambique (137th); Cameroon (119th); Mali (123rd); Senegal (104th); Ethiopia (125th); Zimbabwe (126th); and Rwanda (101st).
  • Six of the 10 most-improved countries in the Index are in sub-Saharan Africa: Zimbabwe (123rd); Rwanda (99th); Zambia (109th); Uganda (111th); Kenya (110th); and Ethiopia (126th).
  • Mali has fallen 62 places on the Safety & Security sub-index since 2012 and is now ranked 113th. This is due mainly to an increase in state violence, refugee numbers and grievances.

Interesting findings in the sub-indices:

  • In governance the top 3 countries are Switzerland, New Zealand and Denmark and the bottom three are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Afghanistan.
  • In terms of safety and security the top three countries are Hong Kong, Iceland and Finland and the bottom three are Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Syria.
  • In personal freedoms the top three countries are New Zealand, Norway and Australia, and the bottom three are Iraq, Egypt and Yemen.
  • Looking at social capital, which includes social cohesion, community and religious attendance we see that the top three countries are Norway, New Zealand and Denmark and the bottom three are Burundi, Central African Republic and Togo.

You can read the full report here.

This article summarises an external report, and is not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. 

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Legatum Institute