How good should life be in the United Kingdom?
Every government in the world will say they want their people to have better healthcare, better education, and a higher standard of living – they’re just doing the best they can right now, with limited resources.
Now an independent NGO, the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI), is putting those claims to the test with a ground-breaking measurement technique.
HRMI’s latest data – publicly available on its Rights Tracker – shows that the United Kingdom government can in fact afford to be doing much more to support people’s basic rights to food, education, health, and more.
HRMI looks at how well every country in the world is doing on key indicators like school enrolment, baby birth weight, access to water, and so on, and calculates what has been shown to be possible at every level of income (GDP per capita).
Here’s a short video explaining how and why HRMI measures these rights:
Judging the United Kingdom by what other countries with the same wealth have achieved, HRMI’s Quality of Life score for the UK falls in the ‘bad’ range. Successive UK governments have fallen far short of what the country has agreed to under United Nations treaties over the last 75 years.
On the Rights Tracker graphs below, the UK should be able to achieve 100% – that’s what HRMI calculates is possible at the UK’s level of income. As you can see, there are some significant gaps, and room for improvement.
HRMI’s latest scores measure the situation as it was in 2020 (it takes a while for the underlying indicator data to be collected and published by international databases like UNESCO and the World Bank), but HRMI supplements them with more up-to-date data from local human rights monitors through an annual survey.
Human rights professionals with first-hand knowledge of how people are living told HRMI that many specific groups of people are particularly at risk of missing out on their everyday rights.
Disability is a significant factor, with disabled people missing out on education, food, healthcare, housing, and work at a higher rate than the general population, and also at extra risk of torture and ill-treatment, especially when living in residences other than their homes. Disabled people are also less able to participate in government.
Refugees and asylum seekers are also suffering. These groups were identified as being at extra risk for rights violations for 12 out of 13 rights HRMI measured in 2023. Human rights experts expressed strong concern for their situation, including being unable to work, with all the associated challenges of poverty that that brings.
As well as the income-adjusted scores for Quality of Life rights, HRMI also measures civil and political rights, using a different methodology. Drawing on responses from independent human rights monitoring experts in the UK, HRMI produces scores on a 0-10 scale for a range of rights and freedoms.
The UK’s scores for democratic rights and freedoms have nosedived over recent years.
What can we all do about this?
Overall, HRMI’s scores show that the UK government has a long way to go to meet its basic human rights obligations.
The government is bound by international promises to do better than this.
Hard numbers are a powerful complement to case studies and reports of specific situations you may be aware of. Next time you are pressing the government to do better, you can include HRMI data to show that there is a widespread systemic failing that must be remedied.
Show these scores to your local council leaders and MPs. Show them that the UK has all the resources it needs to ensure a much better quality of life for its people. Call a local journalist and point them to the data on the Rights Tracker. When you’re next writing a submission on a proposed law or policy, combine your detailed local information with HRMI’s country-level scores, to show that your case studies are part of a national trend.
On a more hopeful note, HRMI’s Quality of Life scores show that huge improvement is within the power of the government. It has the resources to do much better for its people, right now, without delay – and it must do so.
Find out more:
You might also be interested in the EHRC Human Rights Tracker.
Join Just Fair’s free online training ‘Using everyday rights to make extraordinary change’, 19 September 12:00-13:30.