What is The Human Development Index?

Australia has the highest HDI in the world - that alone should make you suspicious its validity
Australia has the highest HDI in the world - that alone should make you suspicious of its validity

I’ve developed a new appreciation for how crazy the HDI is as a measurement of a country’s development. Thank the lord they don’t apply the same sliding scale criteria to educational achievement in this country – oh, hang on, they do! Anyway – here’s some info on the HDI….

The Human Development Index is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

Human Development is now measured using four indicators

  • Life expectancy at birth
  • Mean years of adult education adults over 25 have received
  • The number of expected years of education children attending school can expect
  • Gross National Income per capita (PPP)

The UN (who monitor Human Development) give each country a rank from between 0 and 1 based on how well it scores in relation to ‘constructed minimum’ and ‘observed maximum scores for each of these criteria. The minimum and maximum scores for each criteria are as below

  Minimum scores* Perceived maximums
Life expectancy at birth 20 83.2
Mean years of adult education adults over 25 have received 0 13.2
The number of expected years of education children attending school can expect 0 20.6
Gross National Income per capita (PPP) 163 108, 211

(*This is the level below which the UN believes there is no prospect for human development!)

How does the HDI work out a country’s score? – it’s quite easy – if a country has a life expectancy of 83.2, and all the other maximums, it would score one, if it had a life expectancy of 20, and all the other minimums it would score zero. If it was half way between the minimum and maximum – it would score 0.5 – NB by the UK’s standards, this would be a pretty low level of human development!

So what do the scores mean?

Well a country scores 1-0.788 it’s has ‘high human development’ and is classified as a ‘developed country’ – as are 42 countries – most of the European countries come into this category.

All the rest are classified as ‘devloping countries (the figures are rough!)

  • A score of 0.785 -0.675 means a country has ‘high human development – eg Mexico and Brazil
  • 0.670 – 0.480 – Medium human development – eg China and Botswana
  • 0.48 and lower – Low human development – eg Ethiopia.

 

This site is great for doing the comparisons! – the UN data site – you can mash the data up and do loads of stuff –

You get a feeling for how HDI is changing over time….

HDI_graph

Or you can break up the data and compare two or more countries… (click on it – it’ll enlarge!)

btsw china

It’s worth noting that there have been some changes to the HDI this year – !

‘Access to knowledge’ used to be measured by the adult literacy rate and combined gross enrolment in education – but because many of the world’s developed nations have reached 100% in both of these – this meant there would be less room for discriminating between the most and least developed nations (NB – This is one of the biggest problems with the HDI – because it is a relative scale – they just go on moving the goal posts – thus some countries will always appear underdeveloped… one could argue that having 100% literacy and enrolment is enough of a development goal in education – rather than the idea of spending a longer time in education as being desirable?)

Standard of living used to be measured by GDP per capita – but is now measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in PPP US$. While GDP is a measure of economic output, it does not reflect a country’s disposable income—some profits may be repatriated abroad, some residents 2  receive remittances from abroad, and in some cases inbound aid flows may be sizeable. GNI adjusts the GDP for these factors and is therefore a better measure of a country’s level of income.

Also, the United Nations is now going to report on an even greater range of indicators of development than ever before – this post from the Global Sociology Blog has more… talking about the new focus on inequalities within developing nations – which is something that Hans Rosling also talks about in this video – great for visual graphics showing development!!!

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