Human Development

Latest! Check out the Human Development report 2001 here.

What is human development?

Human development does mean different things to different people. However, almost all agree that access to the bare necessities of life (food, shelter and clothing), education and health care are important and fundamental aspects of human development. More arguable aspects of human development are personal freedom and democracy. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) uses three factors to calculate the Human Development Index : life expectancy, access to education and per capita gross domestic product (GDP).

Is there any way to measure human development?

There is no foolproof way to measure human development but one can get a good idea by considering the fundamental factors behind human development. The Human Development Index (HDI) mentioned above is generally considered a good measure of human development. The UNDP compiles several other indices which it considers relevant for development such as the Gender-related development index (GDI), Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) and the Human Poverty Indices (HPI-1 and HPI-2). The latest indices together with information on how they are calculated can be found here .

How closely are wealth and development related?

In general, greater wealth usually means higher development though the link is not as close as one may naively assume. Several countries having similar per capita GDP have very different HDIs and vice versa. Examples quoted in Human Development Report 1999 include Spain (HDI = 0.894, per capita GDP = $15,930) and Singapore (HDI = 0.888, per capita GDP = $28,460), Georgia (HDI = 0.792, per capita GDP = $1,960) and Turkey (HDI=0.728, per capita GDP = $6,350) and Morocco (HDI = 0.582, per capita GDP = $3,310) and Lesotho (HDI = 0.582, per capita GDP = $1,860). These are, needless to say, the more extreme examples but they do illustrate the fact that wealth is not everything.

The broadly based figures can also hide specific imbalances such as the fact that as many as 35% of people do not have access to safe water in Argentina, a country with high human development while the corresponding figure for India, a country with medium human development and a per capita GDP less than 1/6 of that of Argentina, is only 15%.

How about inequality?

The Human Development Index does not take into account income inequality. Several countries do not make public their income distribution figures. Some figures from the World Bank can be found here.

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