Connect with us

This guest blog is by Thalia Kehoe Rowden, Strategy and Engagement Lead at the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI). HRMI tracks the human rights progress of countries, producing robust data that anyone can use to push for improvements in how governments treat people.


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.

Screenshot from HRMI's Rights Tracker showing a blue bar graph with scores for the United Kingdom: Quality of Life = 83.7% Right to education = 84.5% Right to food = 97.4% Right to health = 89.4% Right to housing = 74.5% Right to work = 72.5% Data available at

For the right to a job, the right to affordable housing, the right to a fair level of income, and the right to quality education, the scores are even worse, falling in the lowest ‘very bad’ range.Screenshot from HRMI's Rights Tracker showing a blue bar graph with scores for the United Kingdom: Right to a fair (relative) income = 74.9% Right to a job = 70.1% Data available at

The UK’s best scores are for the right to food security, the right to safely managed sanitation, and for children’s right to health.Screenshot from HRMI's Rights Tracker showing a blue bar graph with scores for the United Kingdom: Right to child health = 98.3% Right to adult health = 89.0% Right to reproductive health (birth weight) = 80.8% Data available at

Strikingly, as in other countries with high levels of Covid-19 deaths, the UK’s score for life expectancy has taken a sharp dive.Screenshot from HRMI's Rights Tracker showing a blue line graph with scores for the United Kingdom, showing a slight upward trend for 20 years, then a sharp dip between 2019 and 2020. Data available at

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.Screenshot from HRMI's Rights Tracker showing a word cloud of people at risk for violations of the right to education in the United Kingdom: People at risk for Right to education (2022) Interpretation: Larger text = more human rights experts identified this group as being at risk. Word cloud goes in order of size, with groups at the top of the list being most commonly identified by experts as being at risk of rights violations. People with disabilities Refugees or asylum seekers Migrants and/or immigrants People with low social or economic status People of particular ethnicities People of particular races People who are homeless Street children or homeless youth LGBTQIA+ people People from particular cultural backgrounds or castes People with less education People without a legal identity Children Detainees or those accused of crimes Indigenous people People in particular geographic locations People with particular religious beliefs or practices People with specific health conditions Single parent families People of particular nationalities All people Internally displaced people Older people Other people People from particular castes, work or descent Students Women and/or girls Source: HRMI 2023 Data available at

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.Screenshot from HRMI's Rights Tracker showing three line graphs with scores over for the United Kingdom, all trending downward. The three rights are Assembly and association Opinion and expression Participation in government Data available at

 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.

Background image by Bibi Sakata