Albino Prada and Patricio Sánchez, researchers from GEN, have made a study where they show how some of the richest countries of the world are at the same time some of the worst when it comes to transforming growth into social development.
The study was recently published in the Social Indicators Research journal (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11205-015-1206-0). It takes a look at the rich countries of the world and their rankings in terms of material wealth and it analyses the relationship between wealth levels and estimates of social development, using United Nations Development Programme indicators, which are related to health, education, environment, employment and social welfare.
Among some peculiar cases, they found Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia, which all appear on the top of the ranking if we measure their wealth by GDP. However, when the human development index (HDI) is analysed, they descend over 100 positions. On the opposite side, they find that the countries that are worst placed in wealth ranking, increase their positions when analysing progress in welfare or social cohesion. For example, China makes an ascending leap of 62 places in the ranking of social development.
The study shows that the larger the value of an indicator gets, the difference in the opposite ranking will be more pronounced. Finally, they conclude that the results allow them to identify which countries transform economic growth into social development in a better way than the others.