Britain 'flat-lining' on social progress measures

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Britain is "flat-lining" on key measures of social progress compared to other developed nations, according to a new international study.

And the 2017 Social Progress Index identified a "correlation" between the introduction of austerity policies in the UK and lack of improvement in quality of life, particularly the availability of affordable housing.

Complied by academics at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, the Index ranked the UK 12th overall out of 128 countries on factors relating to the fulfilment of basic human needs, well-being and opportunity, rather than economic growth.

Britain has been in 12th place on the index every year since it was first compiled in 2014. But its authors warned that social progress has not increased in the UK over the four-year period, and on some key measures the country was "slipping backwards".

Among areas of concern were:

:: Housing, with just 44% of Britons believing there was good availability of affordable homes and the UK at risk of a "homeless generation"

:: Violent crime, which was "higher in the UK than many other wealthy nations"

:: Life expectancy, at 84 for someone currently 60 years old, is "lower than in many other wealthy nations

:: Excessive levels of deaths from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases

:: Britain "slipping backwards" over the last four years on tolerance and inclusion measures, with "very disappointing results" on religious tolerance (ranked 92nd) and discrimination and violence against minorities (ranked 50th)

Michael Green, chief executive of the Social Progress Imperative (SPI), said: "The 2017 Social Progress Index shows just how widespread the impact of austerity Britain has become.

"From disillusionment about affordable housing, rising crime, growing intolerance and poor health outcomes: the UK is now flat-lining on quality of life outcomes.

"And as we face the prospect of a vast EU divorce bill, the challenge for policy-makers is to ensure that the UK doesn't allow social progress to slip backwards."

He warned that the lack of affordable housing risked the UK producing "a homeless generation - young people either unable to get onto the housing ladder, forced to live in cramped accommodation in order to be near work or stuck living with parents".

The UK scored well on higher education and environmental quality, and its overall performance was broadly in line with the average for its GDP per capita, said the SPI.

Top of the table was Denmark, followed by Finland, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, with Ireland one place ahead of the UK in 11th. Germany was ranked 13th, the USA 18th and France 19th.