2010 UNDP Human Development Report highlights Thailand’s successes, challenges

04 Nov 2010

image2010 UNDP Human Development Report

Thailand gets high praise for improving health care, fighting AIDS, lowering poverty rate, still faces challenges on gender, inequality

BANGKOK - UNDP’s 20th anniversary Human Development Report – “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development” – was launched on November 4 at the United Nations in New York. The new HDR gives a revealing review of global development data and trends of recent decades, and the introduction of new humandevelopment indices.

East Asia and the Pacific had by far the strongest HDI performance of any region in the world, nearly doubling in average HDI attainment over the past 40 years. The countries in the 40-year analysis include most of Asia and more than 90% of the world’s population.

Locally, the HDR provides a closer snapshot of the human development picture in Thailand, from Thailand’s triumphs in providing national health care, combating HIV/AIDS, and dramatically reducing poverty to spotlighting current concerns over social and economic inequalities, political instability, and giving new voice to the challenge of gender disparities.The 2010 Human Development Report also introduces three new indices that measure the impact of inequality, gender disparities and “multidimensional” poverty.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index – which identifies serious deprivations in health, education and income on the household level in 104 countries – calculates that South Asia is home to fully half of the world’s poor population, or 844 million people. Rates of multidimensional poverty are, however, relatively low in most of East Asia and the Pacific, including Thailand, though more than half of Cambodians are estimated to be multi-dimensionally poor.

The 2010 Report introduces the Inequality-adjusted HDI and the Gender Inequality Index, both measures of human development that account for inequalities among nations. Under perfect equality, the regular HDI and new Inequality-adjusted indexes are identical. In other words, if inequality or gender had not been a significant factor in a given country, their GII or IHDI would be different.

The Inequality-adjusted HDI, measured in 139 countries, shows South Asia with an average 33 percent loss due to inequality in health, education and income. Globally, the average loss in the HDI due to inequality is about 22 percent. Thailand loses just over 21 percent.

But numbers only tell part of the story. Thailand’s economy, like its neighbors Malaysia and China, has grown faster since the 1970s than any other rich country.

“Economic growth has been spectacular in some developing countries … but these countries have far to go before they cross the divide: China’s per capita income is only a fifth the average for developed countries. Botswana, Malaysia, and Thailand are also far from this mark,” the Report states.Inequality for women remains a major barrier to human development throughout Asia, the 2010 Report shows.

The new Gender Inequality Index – which captures gender gaps in reproductive health, empowerment and workforce participation in 138 countries – shows that six East Asian countries fall in the lower half on gender inequality. Several countries in East Asia and the Pacific have little or no female representation in parliaments.

South Asia is characterized by relatively weak female empowerment with an inequality loss of 35 percent compared with 16 percent in developed countries. Gender inequality losses in Thailand equal roughly 58 percent, due in part to a low number of women serving in Parliament (12) and a low number of women with at least a secondary education (25.6%).