UNDP Thailand places Human Achievement Index on the provincial radar

Sep 10, 2014

River Kwai Bridge Pier, Kanchanaburi province

Human Achievement Index (HAI) is used in Thailand to assess progress in human development at the provincial level.

10 September 2014, Kanchanaburi -   Human development is best defined as building the capacity for individuals and communities to lead better lives, free from want and fear. Measuring human development at the country level has been undertaken since1980, but only a few countries measure human development at the provincial level –Thailand is one of them. 

Today a Human Achievement Index (HAI) workshop organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Thailand, in collaboration with the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), and the Office of the Governor of Kanchanaburi province was held. Representatives from agencies for health, education, natural resources, the chamber of commerce, and other provincial agencies in Kanchanaburi were present, and met to share their experiences of using the HAI to support development planning at the provincial level. 

“Since 2003, UNDP Thailand has gone the extra mile by tracking progress on human development in greater detail using the Human Achievement Index,” said Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand.  “The index is an integral part of UNDP Thailand’s national human development reports and over the years we have developed a better understanding of the human development status of each province using the index.” 

The HAI compares human development at the provincial level in 76 provinces and can reflect stagnation or slow progress in deprived areas, but also allows room for more advancing provinces to show their stride. In many ways, the real value and validity of the HAI comes from the use of the eight individual components. These eight key areas of human development include: health, education, employment, income, housing and living environment, family and community life, transport and communication and participation.

The HAI follows a human lifecycle, starting with the first essential thing that everyone must have on the first day of life – health- followed by the next important step for every child- education. After schooling, one gets a job to secure enough income, to have a decent housing and living environment, to enjoy a family and community life, to establish contacts and communication with others, and last but not least, to participate as a member of society.

The HAI provides an overview of the trends of human development over the last decade and illustrates that Thailand has improved greatly, but there is a great disparity among provinces which has remained constant. Over the last decade the gains have been impressive.

The average per capita income has risen by two-fifths. Many more children are staying longer in education. Virtually everyone is now covered by healthcare insurance and other forms of social security have expanded. Access to safe water and basic sanitation is almost universal and mobility and connectivity have increased remarkably.

However, the downsides include the unequal access to quality education which still remains a concern. Political participation has increased but political security has become a challenge. Inequality in income, and inequalities in access to public goods, have improved over recent years but still remain high compared to many other countries of similar income levels. The HAI is appreciated not only for its final output – the provincial ranking - but also for the wealth of provincial data that could be used in indebted and related analysis. It is probably the most comprehensive collection of provincial data on key aspects of human development.

Thailand’s human development ranking has risen steadily for over 30 years. In 2014, Thailand ranked 89 out of 185 countries on the Human Development Index, positioning itself within the medium human development category. While Thailand continues to make marked progress in human development indicators overall – such as health, education and living environment – this year’s HAI confirms that this progress differs significantly between provinces, and even regions.

This year, the HAI reported that there was little variation in the ranking of provinces, especially at the top and the bottom of the list. The top five best performing provinces were: Bangkok, Phuket, Nonthaburi, Trang, and Phayao.  The most remarkable progress was made by Phayao province, by moving from 48th in 2009 to 5th in 2014 by showing improved ranking on all eight HAI indices. The five lowest performing provinces were Mae Hong Son which remained at the bottom of the list as it has done since 2007, followed next by Tak, Si Sa Ket, Nakhon Phanom and Surin. Those in the bottom five of the Index, tend to be Northern provinces. 

This is the second workshop organized by UNDP Thailand and the NESDB with provincial agencies on HAI and how it draws attention to the patterns of geographical disparity, by promoting the production and use of provincial-level data for development planning and bench-marking. UNDP Thailand has long been committed to a participative, bottom-up approach to human development, and the usage of the HAI - a powerful advocacy tool – will help to better inform policy makers at the provincial level, to address the pattern of inequities and uneven development that deserves immediate and long-term policy action.