A new, expanded edition of the Social Development Index of Towns and Municipalities has been published. It was supplemented with data for 2016, making the Index now available for six years (2011-2016). After all the methodological supplements and corrections during the previous years, the Index is now stable and comparable through time. This year’s edition of the Social Development Index provides for the presentation of results on an interactive map, and the monitoring of the social development trends at the level of local self-governments.
The social development index is a composite index providing for a comparison of the achieved level of social development among towns and municipalities in the Republic of Serbia. The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit has initiated the development of the methodology and application with the aim of placing this tool at the disposal of all interested users, from decision and policy makers, to independent researchers and analysts.
The Social Development Index provides the option of comparing quality of life by town and municipality, sortable, in accordance with personal priorities, under six areas: demographics, economic activity, education, social protection, healthcare, other quality of life indicators and social participation. It takes on values on a scale of 1 to 100, with higher index values indicating better living conditions in a given local self-government unit. The index was produced by aggregating 31 indicators in 6 areas, adapting the direction of action for certain indicators, i.e. if a certain phenomenon has a negative impact on the quality of life, its reciprocal value was taken. Since the indicators used were expressed in different units of measurement, a normalization process reduced them all to the range of 1 to 100, to form a unified Social Development Index of Towns and Municipalities.
Why a Social Development Index of Towns and Municipalities?
- To ensure sustainable measurement of the achieved level of social development with results that are easy to understand and present;
- To provide for a comparison of towns and municipalities in Serbia through an adapted summary indicator measuring quality of life;
- To provide for the creation of national and local social development policies based on data on the status of social development in Serbia;
- To provide a support instrument for decision makers at the local level when assessing room for improving the quality of life in the community;
- To provide for the comparison of various priority areas regarding social development;
- To provide the opportunity for citizens, the civil sector and researchers to review all aspects of the quality of life in towns and municipalities in Serbia.
Challenges and Recommendations for the Future
One of the greatest challenges when developing the Social Development Index of Towns and Municipalities was the availability of data at the municipal level. A large number of indicators have been identified that would, by their very nature, provide a realistic view of the level of social development, but were unavailable at the municipal level, or there was an issue with a large amount of missing data. The initial idea was to disaggregate the social development index by gender, but this is impossible to do at this point.
The recommendations for the next period, in accordance with the above challenges, are improving statistical reporting at the local level, introducing gender-sensitive statistics for a greater number of indicators, and developing social inclusion and inequality indicators at the local level, to better present this segment in the Social Development Index of Towns and Municipalities.