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The 25 Most Progressive Countries in The World

Interest August 30, 2017 By Vincent

After the rise of the far right across Europe and America, and the world seemingly in a constant state of turmoil, expat website Movehub set out to find the most socially liberal countries in the world. Comparing the three different studies of the Social Progress Index, the Environmental Performance Index and the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Gender Gap report which all had dozens of categories like religious and LGBT tolerance, affordable housing, press freedom and access to education, the site has managed to create a definitive list of where might be considered the most progressive parts of the planet.

It's not just wealthy countries that hold sway, though, as poorer countries quite often afford greater social liberties. Here we look at the top 25 of these forward thinking countries.

25. Namibia

Many wouldn't expect the small African nation to appear on this list given that it is not as rich as many others who have claimed a top spot but it scores very well in terms of political freedom and freedom of speech. Of course, at some point money does come into it and this can be seen in factors like access to education.

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Still, 25th place is a good starting point and Namibia will be hoping to climb higher in the coming years.

24. Austria

Recent years has seen Austria falling behind in terms of religious and LGBT tolerance and it only performs moderately in terms of the WEF's Gender Gap report as well but where the country does exceed is in its environmental performance putting it far ahead of many other European countries. 

Given the wealth of natural beauty the country has, with its mountains and lakes, and that these are often used for vital tourism to the small European state, it is perhaps unsurprising they are so positive when it comes to environmental protection.

23. Philippines

Performing well on gender parity and environmental protection, the Philippines is another country that relies heavily on its natural assets for tourism and having a progressive outlook towards LGBT and gender issues also increases the likelihood of greater tourism and the country also scores well in those areas.

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Despite having a fairly low GDP, the country scored well in for academic attainment in the WEF's Gender Gap report.

22. The Netherlands

Long seen as socially progressive in terms of LGBT (the first country to allow gay marriage) and in gender equality, The Netherlands performed best in the Social Progress Index although the rise of the far-right throughout Europe has dogged its politics as of late.

 

In terms of environmental concerns, the country has always ranked well on this with it being very low lying and at flood risk from rising sea levels. It is also a very healthy nation and encourages walking and cycling where possible.

21. U.S.A

Yes, the country that elected for President Trump actually ranks quite highly as a socially progressive nation which goes to show the vast and differing opinions that make up the country. Flailing quite heavily on the Gender Gap report n access to advanced education in the Social Progress Index where it really made waves.

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The division between environmental concerns in the country is evident and swings quite wildly from state to state.

20. Spain

Breaking into the top 20, Spain struggles with gender parity but a distinct lack of air pollution and other positive aspects in terms of environmental concerns has pushed it higher and it also performed well on access to advanced education in the Social Progress Index.

Given that tourism is a high earner for the country, concerns over environmentalism are bound to be important.

19. Lithuania

One of four Eastern European nations that made the top 25 of this list, Lithuania is not the richest of nations but still managed to perform well on personal rights in the Social Progress Index compared to similar countries like Croatia, Hungary, and Greece.

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Its environmental performance was also very good and the country will be hoping to push forward as it grows.

18. Belgium

Just above Lithuania in the gender gap report, Belgium came fourth in an impressive showing of its gender parity. With more affordable housing than many other richer nations as well, this bumped up its ranking on the  Social Index report.

Like The Netherlands, Belgium is very concerned with rising sea levels due to its low-lying nature.

17. Estonia

Putting nations with stronger economies to shame, Estonia is another Eastern European country that has flowered in recent years with a relatively good showing on the gender gap report and extremely high ranking of 8th on the Environmental Performance Index.

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Still cheaper than many other parts of Europe as well, Estonia looks to be balancing social progress with a growing economy.

16. France

Considering how wealthy a nation France is, they would have wanted to have performed better in certain areas as it slumped to 18th in the Social Progress Index. This is by no means bad but it's hardly great either.

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Doing much better in the Environmental Performance Index, where they came 10th, the country will be hoping to raise their gender parity to the same levels.

15. Australia

In the top four in the Social Progress Index for its access to higher education and clean water Australia really should have surged ahead to a really high position on this list but it got a terrible score on the Gender Gap report that really held it back whilst a mixed approach to environmentalism saw it perform relatively indifferently there.

With such natural wonders as the Great Barrier Reef, amongst many others, requiring protection but also a heavy focus on mining and shipping, debate rages within the country as to the best way to go about preserving the environment without damaging the economy.

14. Latvia

Latvia performed well in many areas including the Gender Gap report, where although behind floundering France, it seems to be making great progress given its much lower GDP.

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The same can be said for its access to information and education compared to its peers as it scored well on the Social Progress Index.

13. Germany

Not faring very well in the Social Progress Index, high house prices and lack of social mobility cost the Germans a place in the top 10 but where gender equality is concerned, they scored well and managed to put themselves on a higher footing.

A leading figure in the European Union, Germany would hope to be leading by example on many of these issues and although its ranking suggests there is no cause for concern, they may feel a little disappointed.

12. Portugal

Economically struggling, Portugal has surged ahead of many other far richer nations in a whole range of areas access to education and tolerance being very high in the country and several extremely progressive laws put in place such as their decriminalization of drug addiction.

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Environmental concerns are also high in the country with it performing relatively well.

11. Canada

Many will not be surprised to see Canada on this list, but a few may raise an eyebrow that it does not score higher. Doing extremely well Social Progress Index, coming in second place last year it only performed to a reasonable degree in the Environmental Performance Index where it came 25th.

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Still ten places higher than their neighbor the USA, many often see Canada as the progressive ideal but it just fails to break into the top 10.

10. United Kingdom

Despite, recently voting to leave the European Union, the UK remains an incredibly progressive country overall with its rankings in personal rights, safety, tolerance, and inclusion all being very high, although dented by a recent rise in far-right sympathies.

Environmentally, the country also does reasonably well, although lagging behind a fair few of its European neighbors.

9. Ireland

The UK's Westerly neighbor just beats it in the rankings with its best performance being in the case of access to higher education but its closer ties to Europe and strong approach towards environmentalism also saw it do well.

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Given that it has a lower GDP to the UK as well shows just how progressive the country really is.

8. Denmark

The happiest country in the world, Denmark is no doubt so cheery because it is an incredibly progressive country that performs well environmentally with the third largest offshore wind farm in the World (behind the top two in the UK), good governance, strong sense of community, respect for fellow citizens, and general high quality of life has propelled Denmark forward.

Education was a particularly high scorer for the country as it was the first to include computer science into its primary school curriculum.

7. Switzerland

A rich nation that often performs very well on prosperity indexes, the wealth is o=well distributed throughout the nation making its performance on the Social Progress Index a strong one from the outset.

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Crystalline lakes and clear mountain air that are preserved in the name of tourism lend to a high eco-ranking also.

6. Slovenia

This may come as one of the biggest surprises to many as the tiny nation of just two million people has a troubled history politically and economically but now it has become a powerhouse of environmental standards and free press.

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Where it does fall down is in its approach to LGBT rights as the country rejected legalizing gay marriage in 2015.

5. New Zealand

New Zealand has some of the world's most breathtaking scenery and a unique eco-system and wildlife due to its separation from Australasia for millennia. As such, large parts of the country is heavily protected by environmental laws making it one of the greenest countries around.

Its history of immigration and relatively low population means that it also has very progressive attitudes in many other areas.

4. Norway

The top 4 positions on this list are all filled by Scandinavian nations with Norway scoring extremely highly in education, health, and press freedom in the 2016 Social Progress report but being held back slightly by hardening attitudes on immigration.

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The Scandinavian attitude towards the environment and social welfare seems to be an extremely good way of going about things with a collection of rich, happy and progressive nations leading by example on these issues.

3. Sweden

Sweden has long been ahead of other countries in terms of gender equality when in 1988 it set a target of 50%  of people on the boards of government agencies being women and last September they managed to achieve that goal. 

 

Coming 4th in the world in terms of gender equality, its excellent environmental record, and strong press freedoms place it 3rd on this list.

2. Finland

Topping the 2016 Social Progress Index, scoring highly on health and safety, Finland has a relatively small population and a reasonably strong economy with its burgeoning tech sector opening it up to the world.

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Edged out of top spot, Finland remains one of the most progressive countries in the world.

1. Iceland

The most liberal nation on Earth, Iceland has a tiny population of around 330,000 and relies heavily on tourism for its economy so it sees many people from all over the globe come to its nation opening it up to a progressive and accepting view of the world.

Being an island on top of a tectonic rift, it uses the volcanic energy and naturally occurring geothermal pools for over 85% of its energy needs.

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