Human Development Index Finds Improvements in Well-Being but Wide Inequalities
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UNDP released its 2018 HDI, which ranks 189 countries according to their progress on health, education and income.

In addition, UNDP released several related Indices, including the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Development Index and the Gender Inequality Index.

14 September 2018: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched the 2018 Human Development Index (HDI) finding that, on average, people are living longer, are more educated and have greater income. At the same time, however, the HDI reports that “massive differences” remain across the world in people’s well-being.

Out of the 189 countries for which the HDI is calculated, 59 place in the “very high” development group, with Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Ireland and Germany leading the rankings. The “low” end of the HDI includes 38 countries, with Niger, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Chad and Burundi receiving the lowest scores.

Ireland has experienced the highest increase in its HDI rank, while Syria has fallen the most.

The 2018 Statistical Update reports on changes in the HDI between 1990 and 2017. Since 1990, average HDI levels have risen significantly, including a 51% increase in the least developed countries (LDCs). In 2010, there were only 46 countries in the highest category and 49 countries in the lowest grouping. Ireland has experienced the highest increase in its HDI rank, moving up 13 places between 2012 and 2017. Botswana, the Dominican Republic and Turkey each moved up eight places. In contrast, the Syrian Arab Republic fell 27 places followed by Libya, which fell 26 places, and Yemen, whose score decreased by 20 places.

UNDP’s Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index highlights which countries are most and least unequal in terms of health, education and income gains among their populations. The greater the inequality, the more a country’s HDI falls. Low and medium human development countries lose 31% and 25%, respectively, of their human development level as a result of inequality. This Index provides data on 151 countries.

The ‘Gender Development Index’ analyzes gaps in human development between men and women for 164 countries. The average HDI for women is 6% lower than for men globally.

The ‘Gender Inequality Index’ examines gender-based inequalities related to health, empowerment and economic status for 160 countries. The Index highlights gaps in global labor force participation, share of parliamentary seats and other measures of gender inequality.

The HDI highlights the following regional development trends:

  • The Arab region experienced a 25.5% increase in its HDI since 1990. The region loses 25% of overall HDI value when adjusted for inequalities, and it has the second largest gender gap across all developing regions.
  • East Asia and the Pacific have the second highest growth in HDI, with a 41.8% increase between 1990 and 2017. When adjusted for inequalities, the region experiences a 15.6% loss in HDI. The gender gap between men and women in the HDI is 4.3%, which is below the global average of 6%.
  • The Europe and Central Asia region has the highest average HDI value among developing regions. The region has the lowest overall loss in HDI due to inequality and the lowest inequality between men and women among developing regions.
  • The Latin America and the Caribbean region places second in levels of human development. When adjusted for inequality, the region’s HDI falls by 21.8%. The gap between men and women is only 2%.
  • South Asia experienced the fastest HDI growth among developing regions, with a 45.3% increase since 1990. But, when adjusted for inequality, the region loses about 26% of its HDI. The region also has the widest gap between men and women, at 16.3%.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a 35% growth in its HDI since 1990. The region has the highest loss due to inequality at 31%.

The HDI underscores differences in people’s well-being. As an illustration, a child born in Norway can expect to spend nearly 18 years in school and to live more than 82 years, while a child born in Niger could expect to spend five years in school and only live to 60 years old. UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner reflected on the “stark picture” presented by these statistics, saying that millions of individuals’ lives are affected by inequity and lost opportunities, “neither of which are inevitable.” [Publication: Human Development Indices and Indicators: 2018 Statistical Update] [UNDP press release] [HDI website]

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