2010 HD Report: Innovative new measurements chart impact of poverty, gender, inequality

04 Nov 2010

(United Nations) - The 2010 Human Development Report, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today, features three innovative new measurements complementing the Report’s traditional Human Development Index (HDI): the Inequality-adjusted HDI, the Gender Inequality Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index.

“These new measures are major methodological advances that can pinpoint problems and successes in a country, and help to develop ideas and policies that can improve people’s lives,” said Jeni Klugman, the Report’s lead author.

The 2010 Report, The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, introduces the Inequality-adjusted HDI, a measure of human development that accounts for inequality. Under perfect equality, the HDI and Inequality-adjusted HDI are identical. The HDI for an average individual is less than the aggregate HDI when there is inequality in the distribution of health, education and income; the lower the Inequality-adjusted HDI (and the greater the difference between it and the HDI), the greater the inequality.

  • The average loss in the HDI due to inequality is 22 percent—adjusted for inequality, the global HDI of 0.68 in 2010 would fall to 0.52, which would represent a drop from the high to the medium HDI category in the world average. Losses range from 6 percent (Czech Republic) to 45 percent (Mozambique), with 80 percent of countries losing more than 10 percent, and 40 percent of countries losing more than 25 percent.
  • Countries with lower human development tend to have greater inequality—and thus larger losses in human development: Namibia lost 44 percent in the new Inequality-adjusted HDI, the Central African Republic 42 percent and Haiti 41 percent.

“The Inequality-adjusted HDI shows that in many countries, despite rising overall average development achievement, far too many people are being left behind,” Jeni Klugman said.

The 2010 Report also presents the Gender Inequality Index (GII), a new measure built on the same framework as the HDI and Inequality-adjusted HDI to illuminate differences in the distribution of achievements between women and men. Measuring indicators such as maternal mortality rates and women’s representation in parliaments, the GII shows that:

  • Gender inequality varies tremendously across countries—losses in achievements due to gender inequality range from 17 percent in the Netherlands to 85 percent in Yemen.
  • The 10 least gender-equal countries (in descending order) are Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, Mali, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen, with an average GII of 0.79. The most gender-balanced societies under the GII are the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
  • Countries with unequal distribution of human development also experience high inequality between women and men, and countries with high gender inequality experience unequal distribution of human development. Countries doing very poorly in both categories include the Central African Republic, Haiti and Mozambique.

Qatar is farthest from gender equality among high-HDI countries; Burundi is the closest to gender equality among low-HDI countries, as is China in the medium-HDI group.

“Providing girls and women with equal educational opportunities, medical care, legal rights and political representation is not only socially just, but one of the best possible investments in development for all people,” Jeni Klugman said. “The Gender Inequality Index is designed to help advance human development progress by objectively measuring the extent and impact of the persistent social disparities between men and women.”

This year’s report also introduces the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which complements income-based poverty measures. The MPI identifies deprivations across the same dimensions as the HDI—health, education and living standards—and shows the number of people who are multidimensionally poor and the deprivations that they face on the household level. The MPI uses 10 indicators; a household is counted as poor if it is deprived in more than three of those areas. The MPI can be deconstructed by region, ethnicity and other groupings as well as by dimension. It can also be adapted further for national use.

Key findings include:

  • About 1.7 billion people in the 104 countries covered by the MPI—a third of their population—suffer from multidimensional poverty. This exceeds the estimated 1.44 billion people in those countries estimated to live on $1.25 a day or less.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of multidimensional poverty, averaging 65 percent and ranging from a low of 3 percent in South Africa to a massive 93 percent in Niger. Yet half the world’s poor people, according to the MPI, are in South Asia—844 million - compared to a total of 458 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index was produced for the 2010 Human Development Report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at the University of Oxford, with UNDP support, as an innovative alternative to the Reports’ formerly used Human Poverty Index.