The UNDP and the Sydney Centre for International Law today launches the 20th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report. It was released last month in New York, acknowledging that there is no single formula to determine sustainable progress .. and that impressive gains could be achieved without consistent economic growth.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Dr Jeni Klugman, Australian economist and the lead author of the 2010 UNDP Human Development report
LAM: Jeni Klugman, first of all, it seems to me a fairly surprising statement that impressive gains could be made without consistent economic growth - could you talks us through this, how did developing countries do this?
KLUGMAN: Yes, I think it is a surprising find and because growth has often been seen as a necessary precondition for improvements in other dimensions, But in fact over this period of 40 years since 1970, all 135 countries around the world, we find that this is indeed not the case. There are some countries that have grown quickly and have done well in terms of improvement in education and health and that includes, for example, Indonesia and South Korea in this region, but there are others which have not grown particularly fast, but have done well overall in terms of human development and that includes, for example, Laos and Nepal, which did very well relative to their starting point.
LAM: So what were some of the indicators that were used to measure improvements in human development?
KLUGMAN: The basic index we use is a summary measure of well being which was introduced in 1990. It's the so-called human development index or HDI and it has three components. It includes income, but it also includes a measure of health outcome in terms of life expectancy and education and for this historical analysis to use literacy rates and enrolment rates.
LAM: So can you tell us a little bit more about the Asia-Pacific region - who are the top performers in terms of human development?
KLUGMAN: The Asia region overall does very well. The Asia-Pacific region comes out as the fastest improving region over this 40 year period and in fact South Asia comes out as the second fastest, And among the countries in the region which have done the best, as I mentioned South Korea and Indonesia stand out, because they have had kind of relatively successful progress on both education and health as well as the income front. China, of course, stands out for its success on the income front, spectacular growth in income to the order of 2,000 per cent over this period. There are some countries that have done less well in the region, for example, Papua New Guinea, still ranks relatively lowly on the overall index and in particular in terms of gender equity. So overall it is a mixed picture. We undertake some analysis as well as inequality and poverty and try and draw attention to those continuing issues as well.
LAM: Well Jeni as you say, overall the report does seem positive about human development, even though there are areas that need improvement. But there is no doubt though that huge gaps remain. Indeed, countries are scrambling to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals - that is just under five years away?
KLUGMAN: Yes, that's true, so what the human development index does is measure average improvement in the populations in the countries and some groups may be left behind and significantly behind and a general trend that we do see in the Asia region as elsewhere in the world is one of widening inequality, so that is an issue that we do highlight in the report and inequality not only in terms of income, but also in terms of education and health outcome.
LAM: So this disparity between male and female, particularly in education. Would you say that countries in the region are more aware of this now?
KLUGMAN: I think so. In fact education is somewhat of an exception among the areas of gender disparities because there have been significant improvements over time in getting girls to school and in a number of countries, parity has been reached at least at the primary level. So that is obviously a welcome development. But I think as the review of the Millennium Development Goals also showed, maternal mortality remains too high in many countries and there are also issues around access to work and access to decent pay.
LAM: And speaking of decent pay, are the disparities in payments and salaries between men and women, is the gulf still quite big in Asia?
KLUGMAN: It is, but unfortunately the data available on this is not very reliable. It's very difficult to get reliable information about differences in earned income between men and women and that's among the areas that we call for better information. We do have more systematic evidence about labour force participation rates and that indeed shows that there is continuing differences across countries.