UNDP releases Human Development Index

04 Nov 2010

(United Nations)—The 2010 Human Development Index (HDI)—a composite national measure of health, education and income for 169 countries—released today in the 20th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report shows Norway, Australia and New Zealand leading the world in HDI achievement with Niger, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe at the bottom of the annual rankings.

The next seven among the top 10 countries in the 2010 HDI are: the United States, Ireland, Lichtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden and Germany. The other seven among the bottom 10 countries are: Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Burundi.

The first Human Development Report in 1990 featured the newly devised HDI. Its premise, considered radical at the time, was simple: national development should be measured not just by economic growth, as had long been the practice, but also by health and education achievement, which was also measurable for most countries.

For the 20th anniversary of the Report, The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, the 2010 HDI uses data and methodologies that were not available in most countries in 1990 for the dimensions of income, education and health. Gross National Income per capita replaces Gross Domestic Product per capita, to include income from remittances and international development assistance, for example. The upper ‘cap’ on income for index weighting purposes was removed to give countries that had surpassed the previous US$40,000 limit an HDI, better reflecting real incomes levels.

In education, expected years schooling for school-age children replaces gross enrolment, and average years of schooling in the adult population replaces adult literacy rates, to provide a fuller picture of education levels. Life expectancy remains the main indicator for health.

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 HDI charts national ranking changes over five-year intervals, rather than on a year-to-year basis.

“Annual changes in national HDI rankings don’t tell us much about the reality of development, which is inherently a long-term process,” explained Jeni Klugman, lead author of the Report.

Micronesia has entered the HDI table for the first time this year, while Zimbabwe has re-entered after not being included in 2009 due to missing income values. Fourteen countries, Antigua and Barbuda, Bhutan, Cuba, Dominica, Eritrea, Grenada, Lebanon, Oman, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles and Vanuatu, as well as the occupied Palestinian territories, have been dropped from the HDI due to a lack of internationally compiled and verified data. For example, four countries have information on all HDI components except for Gross National Income: Cuba, Iraq, Marshall Islands and Palau.

The indicators of the three dimensions are calibrated and combined to generate an HDI score between zero and one. Countries are grouped into four human development categories or quartiles: very high, high, medium and low. A country is in the very high group if its HDI is in the top quartile, in the high group if its HDI is in percentiles 51–75, in the medium group if its HDI is in percentiles 26–50, and in the low group if its HDI is in the bottom quartile.

In addition to the 2010 HDI, the Report includes three new indices: the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Inequality Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index. Tables on various measures of human development are also available, including demographic trends, the economy, education, health and more.