Rationale

"Measuring what Matters to EU Citizens: Social Progress in the European regions" is a multi-region pilot project, launched by the European Commission, in order to encourage regions to empirically test how the EU Social Progress Index (EU SPI) could be used to improve policy-making, in particular for policies supported by cohesion policy. The aim is for the pilot to serve as a guide for European regions in using the EU-SPI but also to gather recommendations on how to improve the next editions of the index, foreseen by the end of 2019.

One of the goals of EU cohesion policy is to achieve social, economic and territorial cohesion and reduce regional disparities across the regions. Social progress plays therefore a key role in the designing of EU policies and priorities. Cohesion policy equally supports both economic performance and social progress.

Measuring social development is a key element in the process of sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, adopted in 2015, includes 17 SDGs and 169 target indicators. The Agenda is a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide. The EU has played and continues to play an active role throughout the process and is committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda within the EU. In this process, designing and developing new indicators and measures is necessary in order to identify priorities, monitor progress and evaluate development.

As a proposal to empirically measure social progress, the European Commission published in 2016 the EU Regional Social Progress Index, EU-SPI. The index builds on the global Social Progress Index developed by the Social Progress Imperative to measure social progress at the national level worldwide. The regional EU-SPI aims at providing consistent, comparable and actionable measures of social and environmental issues for all the regions in the 28 EU Member States.

Social progress is defined in the EU-SPI as the society’s capacity to meet its citizens’ basic human needs, to establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain their quality of life, and to create the conditions to enable individuals to reach their full potential. The EU-SPI covers three broad dimensions of social progress: basic human needs; the foundations of well-being and opportunity.

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Each of these dimensions is broken down into four underlying components described by a total of 50 social and environmental indicators. The deliberate exclusion of economic indicators means that the EU-SPI measures social progress directly, rather than using economic proxies. In so doing, the EU-SPI represents the first comprehensive framework for measuring social progress at the EU level independently from traditional economic indicators. Sitting alongside economic indicators as a complementary benchmark for performance, the index provides a systematic and empirical tool informing public policies. The index can be used to help regions identifying their peers, at any level of economic development, from whom they can learn and, if applicable, prioritise issues they want to address within their cohesion policy programmes. The index also serves as a board for the European Commission to assess whether EU funds address the right issues in the right places and to make a contribution to the GDP and beyond debate.