LAHORE: Pakistan has experienced a marginal increase in the value of Human Development Indicators (HDI) from 0.560 in 2016 to 0.562 in 2017.

However, over the years Pakistan has seen greater progress in its Human Development indicators although the country’s improvement [in human development] is lower when compared to other South Asian states.

This shows in a 2018 statistical update for human development indices and indicators, released by the Human Development Report Office of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). The indices measure progress in key dimensions including health, education, income and gender, studying the level of human development in 189 countries.

While the indices show a general positive trend in human development around the world, with the Global HDI moving up from 0.598 in 1990 to 0.728 in 2017, the pace of progress across countries and regions is uneven. For example out of the 189 countries for which the Human Development Index (HDI) is calculated, 59 countries are today in the very high human development group while only 38 fall in the low HDI group. At the same time the number of countries in the category of very high HD has risen from 12 countries in 1990 to 59 in 2017, and during the same period, the number of countries categorised to have low HD has fallen from 62 to 38.

Stands at 150 in 189 states; sharp inequalities in HDI exist for men, women

Meanwhile in Pakistan’s case, it has the slowest growth in human development amongst all South Asian countries except Afghanistan.

The gap between values of HDI for India and Pakistan has increased to 0.078, while the difference between the HDI values for Pakistan and Bangladesh has surged to 0.046, with both India and Bangladesh far exceeding Pakistan’s HDI value figures. The HDI value for the South Asian region stands at 0.638, which is 0.076 points above Pakistan’s HDI value of 0.562.

Bangladesh, which was below Pakistan in early 1990s, has overtaken by 14 places and is now ranked at 136 as compared to Pakistan’s ranking of 150 in the 189 countries.

Similarly, India has moved 20 places ahead of Pakistan and taken the 130th position in the HDI country rankings. Nepal has also overtaken Pakistan, jumping to the 149th place.

Reasons of slow progress in Pakistan

Surprisingly while Pakistan is currently passing through a difficult phase of economic sustainability, the fact remains that country is faring well on per capita income basis when compared to other countries in the region.

With a per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of US$ 5,311, Pakistan is behind India ($6,353) and ahead of all other countries in South Asia.

However, this progress in GNI per capita is being pulled back by the country’s social indicators.

In the education dimension of HDI, the expected years of schooling [males] are 9.3, which is low compared to 11.9 years for India, 11.8 for Nepal and 11.3 for Bangladesh.

For females, the expected years of schooling are 7.8, which is low compared to 12.9 years for India, 12.6 for Nepal and 11.7 for Bangladesh.

The country also fares low in terms of health indicators.

Pakistan’s average life expectancy at birth was recorded to be 66.6 years in 2017 which is below other South Asian countries such as Nepal with 70.6 years, India with 68.8 years and Bangladesh with 72.8 years.

There are also sharp inequalities in HDI for men and women.

Pakistan has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.541. It roughly loses 3.73pc of the HDI value due to gender inequality. There are disparities across all three dimensions of human development.

Similarly, women’s access to health facilities is much lower as compared to that of men. The labour force participation for women is 24.4pc against 82.9pc for men. It is the lowest in the region after Afghanistan. Overall in terms of the Gender Inequality Index, Pakistan is only ahead of Afghanistan in South Asia. The higher gender inequality has huge economic and social implications for the country as women constitute around 49pc of the total population.

Overall, Pakistan has shown progress in human development like other countries. This progress does commensurate with the size of its economy and per capita income. More significantly, Pakistan is falling behind its neighbours and comparable countries in South Asia.

Apart from Pakistan, globally too there is a gender gap. One key dimension of inequality within countries is between men and women. The data looks at the gender gap in opportunities, achievements and empowerment. Worldwide the average HDI for women is 6pc lower than for men, primarily due to women’s lower income and educational attainments.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2018

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