Overview

The SERF Index

Under the International Covenant for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, countries are obligated to devote the maximum of their available resources to progressively realize the substantive rights enumerated in the Covenant.  Thus, measuring the extent to which a country fulfills its economic and social rights obligations under the ICESCR requires considering the level of rights enjoyment in the country relative to the level of the country’s obligation.  The SERF Index uses socio-economic statistics like school enrollment and infant mortality rates to gauge the extent to which rights-holding individuals enjoy economic and social rights.  A country’s level of obligation is specified using an innovative approach that maps Achievement Possibility Frontiers, APFs. APFs benchmark each country’s level of obligation by relating countries’ per capita GDPs with countries’ performance on socio-economic statistics reflecting economic and social rights enjoyment. The basic SERF Index methodology rigorously assesses countries’ fulfillment of their obligations with regard to a specific social and economic right as the percentage of the feasible level of economic and social rights enjoyment achieved.  Country scores on the resultant component Right Indices reflecting the different substantive rights are then averaged to yield the composite SERF Index.  There are two versions of the SERF Index; the core SERF Index covers most countries while the Supplemental Index covers high income OECD Countries.  The technical note below describes the construction of both variants of the SERF Index in greater detail.

[Technical Note for 2017 Update Coming Soon]

The 2017 SERF Index Update provides SERF Index scores for 11 separate years; 2005 through 2015, and can be downloaded at the SERF Index data tab. This year’s update is a comprehensive update that included the updating and re-estimation of all Achievement Possibility Frontiers using the new 2011 PPP GDP per capita data series.  The Core SERF Index and Supplementary SERF Index for High Income OECD Countries are calculated for all countries with available data.  The Core SERF Index covers approximately 90 countries (the exact number depending on the year) and up to 185 countries for the component Right Indices (the exact number depending on the right and the year), and is comparable across the countries and across the 11 years.  The Supplementary SERF Index for High Income OECD countries has as many as 35 countries (the exact number depending on the year) and up to 181 countries for the component Right Indices (the exact number depending on the right and year), and is comparable across countries and across the 11 years.  The series for each year uses the most recently available data for each country as of the specified year (eg. 2012) when computing the index.  However, because the surveys providing many of the indicators are not conducted annually, the data used for each year’s series are not always unique.  For example, in the case of the Right to Education Index for Turkey,  the 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 series use data on the primary school completion rate in 2012.  Because both the Core SERF Index and Supplementary SERF Index are calculated for all countries (core and high income OECD countries) with available data, researchers can evaluate countries with the available data on either standard.  The expanded data sets including the individual indicator performance scores as well as the Right Indices are incorporated into the downloadable excel files.

The older SERF Index updates, the 2011 update providing SERF Index scores for 2008, and the 2012 update providing SERF index scores for 2009, the 2013 update providing comparable data covering the 2000 through 2010 period, and the 2015 SERF Update providing comparable data for the 2003 to 2012 period are now outdated.    However, they have been retained for the convenience of researchers still working with these older data files, and can be downloaded from the “Data Archives” tab by clicking on the 2011 Downloads, the 2012 Downloads the 2013 Downloads and the 2015 Downloads pages, respectively.

SERF Index Historical Trends 1970 – 2010

Have countries progressed or regressed in meeting their commitments to fulfill economic and social rights? The SERF Index has been estimated for countries with internationally comparable data spanning four decades. The Core Historical SERF Index covers all countries except the high income OECD countries.  Two variants of the Supplementary Historical SERF index are available, one spanning the four decades and a second incorporating data on the quality of education but only spanning the last two decades because comparable international data on the quality of education are not available for the 1970s and 1980s.

The Core and both variants of the Supplemental Historical SERF Index as well as the component right indices from which they are aggregated can be downloaded through this data portal in both pdf and excel formats.

Download SERF Index Historical Trends

Due to data limitations, some indicators were substituted in constructing the trend data. A technical note describing how the construction of the SERF Index Historical Trends differs from the International SERF index is available through this portal and should be read in conjunction with the Technical Note on the International SERF Index Methodology above.

Two variants of the Supplementary Historical SERF index are available, one spanning the four decades and a second incorporating data on the quality of education but only spanning the last two decades because comparable international data on the quality of education are not available for the 1970s and 1980s.

The Core and both variants of the Supplemental Historical SERF Index as well as the component right indices from which they are aggregated can be downloaded through this data portal in both pdf and excel formats.

Download Technical Note on SERF Index Historical Trends