English-speaking countries rank above average; immigration levels statistically insignificant
Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have the highest levels of social cohesion, followed by Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand, according to the Social Cohesion Radar, a study released July 16 by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German-based think tank, and Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. The study examines 34 countries in the EU and the OECD: the 27 EU member states and seven OECD countries: Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the US.
While many conservatives continue to bash the liberal social program paradigm as an unwieldy welfare state of dependency…
Scandinavian countries have the most equitable societies in Europe, according to research by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German-based think tank — finding the strongest social cohesion in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden.
In these Nordic countries, which consistently rank at the top, a universal welfare state actively redistributes wealth and promotes equality of opportunity — the heart of Faustian urGe “Economic Morality: EQUALITY of advancement opportunity and treatment under the law and social memes — EQUITABILITY of rewards and outcomes [economic and social].” The quality of these countries’ institutions is also unusually high. These appear to be the factors behind the strong social cohesion in the Nordic pattern.
Most of Western Europe—Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Spain—feature above-average to average social cohesion. Lithuania, Latvia and the southeast European countries of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania suffer from low social cohesion.
Social cohesion is defined as how well members of a community live and work together. A cohesive society is characterized by:
- resilient social relationships,
- a positive emotional connectedness between its members and the community and
- a pronounced focus on the common good.
“Social cohesion is crucial for any society’s future and has a profound impact on a person’s perceived well-being. More cohesion equals more life satisfaction”, said Liz Mohn, vice chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s executive board.
Thusly, an increasing amount of academic research indicates — what one might logically expect — that “socially cohesive” countries are more likely to have lower levels of crime, substance and alcohol addiction, and higher levels of social mobility.
The report attempted to identify levels of cohesion in society by assessing people’s social networks, levels of public trust in others, confidence in social and political institutions, willingness to help others, and participation in public activities.
• High living standards • Low levels of income inequality and • Technological process toward achieving a knowledge society stand apart as the three most important socio-economic factors to promoting a cohesive society.
The report, therefore, compared metrics such as • national wealth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) • a country’s income gap as measured by the Gini coefficient, and its • level of development towards a modern information society as measured by the Knowledge Index:
- First, greater national wealth has a correlation to greater social cohesion.
- Second, a country’s income gap has a moderately strong and inverse correlation to social cohesion, indicating that less equal societies tend to be less cohesive. Few countries with a large income gap (e.g., the UK or Ireland) manage to avoid below-average scores on the social-cohesion index.
- Third, a country’s level of development towards a modern information society has a more profound effect on social cohesion than national wealth. The higher a country’s ranking on the Knowledge Index, which measures the diffusion of modern communication technology, the more likely that country is to show high social cohesion.
SOLIDARITY FROM DIVERSITY & IMMIGRATION
Moreover, the study dispels the popular belief/misnomer that immigration is intrinsically harmful to social cohesion. The share of immigrants in a country’s population shows no statistically significant effect on social cohesion. Why?
“Modern societies are based not on solidarity rooted in similarity, but on solidarity rooted in diversity and mutual interdependence“, said Stephan Vopel, Bertelsmann Stiftung program director. “Therefore they need an inclusive form of social cohesion that… accepts a multitude of lifestyles and identities and views them as a strength.”
This understanding sheds light upon a particular pattern found in the English-speaking countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, as well as Ireland… all of which generally rank right behind the Scandinavian countries. They are equal to the Nordic countries in terms of perception of fairness, and outperform them on solidarity and helpfulness.
It is interesting to note that conditions in these countries are quite different from conditions in the Nordic countries; for example, their welfare systems are less active in redistributing wealth, and their societies are characterized by a larger gap between rich and poor. But… as immigrant societies, the non-European countries are ethnically and religiously diverse; multicultural policies are in place to manage that heterogeneity.
In this group, also, are two relatively religious countries: Ireland and the United States. These countries appear to be able to achieve a level of social cohesion similar to that found in the relatively non-religious Nordic countries, under very different circumstances. Despite conservative political rants, respect for varied religious views ultimately prevails and tolerance — perhaps at times uneasy — holds sway, especially within the United States.