2010 Human Development Report: Asian countries lead development progress over 40 years

Nov 4, 2010

India among top 10 performers in income growth: Multidimensional poverty, gender gaps, and rising  inequality identified as region’s big challenges 

New Delhi - The 20th anniversary edition of UNDP’s Human Development Report,  launched today in India, spotlights countries that made the greatest progress in recent decades as  measured by the Human Development Index (HDI), with China, Nepal, Indonesia, Lao PDR and South  Korea all making the Report’s “Top 10 Movers” list. 

Among South Asian countries, Nepal ranks second among the top movers on non-income HDI while India  is among the top 10 movers in GDP growth. The Report was launched by Mr. Patrice Coeur-Bizot, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident  Coordinator, in the presence of Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, and Prof. Kaushik  Basu, Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance. 

The HDI, a composite measure of human development covering health and education as well as income was  devised with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s assistance by the late economist Mahbub ul Haq of Pakistan for  the first Human Development Report in 1990, used the new measurement to review development progress  over the previous two decades. The new 20th anniversary edition of the Report, The Real Wealth of  Nations: Pathways to Human Development, revisits that original analytical exercise, using new  methodologies and international data sources, also looking back to 1970. 

Speaking at the launch Mr. Patrice Coeur-Bizot said, “India ranks 119 on the HDI and is among the middle human development countries. There has been steady progress on the HDI over the past 20 years and  India’s HDI is above the average for countries in South Asia. Economic growth has been impressive but  inequality is on the rise. The Report shows that there is a 30 percent loss in HDI value when adjusted for inequality.” 

Welcoming the Report, Prof. Basu said: “The Report is part laudatory and part critical. I am glad that India has done well in terms of economic growth but it is doing poorly in terms of human development in  comparison to other middle human development countries.” Dr. Hameed added: “India has moved one notch higher in the Human Development Index. I feel we have a long way to go. Far too many people are  being left out in India’s growth story.” 

40 year trends East Asia and the Pacific had by far the strongest overall HDI performance of any region in the world,  nearly doubling in average HDI attainment over the past 40 years, according to the Report’s analysis of  health, education and income data for the 135 countries where complete and comparable information  was available. The countries in the 40-year analysis include most of Asia and more than 90 percent of the world’s population. 

China, the second highest achiever in the world in HDI improvement since 1970, was the only country on  the “top 10 movers” list due to income rather than health or education achievement. China’s per capita  income increased a stunning 21-fold over the last four decades, lifting hundreds of millions out of  income poverty. Yet China was not among the region’s top performer in improving school enrolment and life expectancy. 

“One important finding from several decades of human development experience is that for lasting  improvements on the quality of life of citizens, economic growth must be accompanied by spending on  health and education,” said Jeni Klugman, the lead author of the Human Development Report 2010.  Significant progress on human development was also reported for six of the nine South Asian countries  in the trends analysis – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal and Pakistan. 

Nepal emerges as one of the world’s fastest movers since 1970, coming in third out of the 135 countries  studied. A child born today in Nepal can expect to live 25 years longer than a child born in 1970; more  than four of every five children of school age in Nepal now attend primary school, compared to just one  in five 40 years ago.  “This is perhaps surprising in light of Nepal’s difficult circumstances and record of conflict,” said Klugman, adding: “But Nepal’s impressive progress in health and education can be traced to both public policy efforts and substantial remittance inflows from emigrant workers over many years.” 

Similarly, when comparing HDI trends over past two decades, Bangladesh and Cambodia have been the  best performers in the region. Life expectancy in East Asia and the Pacific climbed to an average of 73  years in 2010 from 59 in 1970. In South Asia, life expectancy is now estimated at 65 years, compared to  49 in 1970, though with wide national variations. Over the past 40 years life expectancy increased by 23  years in Bangladesh, 18 years in Iran, 16 years in India, and 10 years in Afghanistan. One big factor in this change is the gradual improvement in South Asia’s infant and child mortality rates, which now stand at 56 and 73 per 1,000 live births, respectively. This is still much higher than the global averages of 44 and 63 per 1,000 live births, however. Afghanistan has the region’s highest infant and under-five mortality rate, at 165 and 257 per 1,000 live births. 

In education, literacy in South Asia increased to 66 percent in 2010 from 31 percent in 1970, however,  the global average for the 135 countries assessed in the HDI trends analysis for 2010 was 83 percent. In  East Asia and the Pacific, the region’s literacy rates rose to 94 in 2010 compared to 53 percent in 1970. 

2010 HDI Update 

The 2010 HDI, which features some technical adjustments of its traditional indicators for health,  education and income, illustrates the wide range of national development among the countries  analysed in the region.  The Republic of Korea ranked highest among the countries grouped on the HDI as part of East Asia and  Pacific – number 12 in the world, which is in the “very high human development” category, followed by Hong Kong, China (SAR) (21) and Singapore (27). Afghanistan (155) ranked lowest amongst Asian  countries out of the 169 countries assessed. This year’s HDI should not be compared to the HDI that  appeared in previous editions of the Human Development Report due to the use of different indicators and calculations. 

The 2010 Human Development Report also introduces three new indices that measure the impact of  inequality, gender disparities and “multidimensional” poverty. 

The Multidimensional Poverty Index – which identifies serious simultaneous deprivations in health,  education and income on the household level in 104 countries – calculates that South Asia is home to  half of the world’s multidimensionally poor population, or 844 million people. Eight Indian states, with  poverty as acute as the 26 poorest African countries measured, are home to 421 million multidimensionally poor people, more than the 410 million multidimensional poor people living in those African countries combined. 

Rates of multidimensional poverty are, however, relatively low in most of East Asia and the Pacific, including China and Thailand, though more than half of Cambodians are estimated to be multidimensionally poor. 

“The Multidimensional Poverty Index captures widespread deprivations, revealing the magnitude of   poverty beyond the standard monetary measures,”  Klugman commented. The Report’s new Inequality- adjusted HDI, measuring the effect of inequality in 139 countries, shows South Asia with an average 33  percent loss due to inequality in health, education and income – the second largest for a developing  region after sub-Saharan Africa. India, for example, loses 30 percent overall on the Inequality-adjusted  HDI, including 41 percent in education and 31 percent in health. In East Asia, most countries have higher  income inequality today than was the case a few decades ago, due in part to widening gaps between  rural areas and the rapidly industrializing cities. 

Inequality for women remains a major barrier to human development throughout Asia, the 2010 Report  shows. The new Gender Inequality Index – which captures gender gaps in reproductive health, empowerment and workforce participation in 138 countries – shows that six countries of East Asia and the Pacific fall in the lower half on gender inequality, with Papua New Guinea among the lowest 10. 

Several countries in East Asia and the Pacific have little or no female representation in parliaments,  although the Philippines and Indonesia have elected women leaders in recent decades. South Asia is  characterized by relatively weak female empowerment with an inequality loss of 35 percent compared  with 16 percent in developed countries. India ranks 122 out of 138 countries on the GII based on 2008  data -- nine percent parliamentary seats are held by women and 27 percent of adult women have secondary or higher levels of education compared to 50 percent adult men. 

About UNDP 
UNDP is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to  knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166  countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As  they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners.  www.undp.org or www.undp.org.in 

Note to Editors: 
For HDI calculations and other purposes, the Human Development Report includes 24 countries in its “East  Asia and Pacific” region: Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Korea (Republic of), Lao PDR, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam. The nine  countries included in “South Asia” are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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