Organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization have played catalytic role in shaping the global economy. Two world wars and current scourge of terrorism has helped the countries of the world to realize the worth of cooperation. It did not take long to realize that unless the mankind prospers uniformly, the living standards for the common man will only degrade further. Economists have utilized numerous tools to identify parameters that help in depicting the best measure of a country’s prosperity levels.
If Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is considered as the only criteria, then India has world’s tenth largest economy in terms of GDP but almost one-fourth of its population lives under the poverty line. The poverty line is defined simply defined as the income level below which a person cannot purchase bare minimum necessities to survive. The hidden flaws with conventional parameters, like GDP, per capita income etc, fall short of measuring a country’s wealth.
Such anomalies inspired a Pakistani economist called Mahbub ul Haq, to propose a parameter called Human Development Index in 1990. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. It is used to determine and indicate whether a country is a developed, developing, or underdeveloped country and also to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life. (Davies et al, P:155)
Under the 2006 United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Human Development Report (HDR) reflects that “HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level) and having a decent standard of living (measured by purchasing power parity, income). ” (UNDP HDR 2006, P: 263) The value of HDI varies between 0 and 1. An HDI below 0. 5 is considered to represent low development.
29 out of 31 countries that have an HDI lower than 0. 5 are in the African continent. HDI gives equal weight of one-third to each of its components representing life expectancy, literacy and income. Let’s analyze what went wrong for the countries at the lower end of HDI spectrum. Life Expectancy The 2006 UNDP report has elaborates that developing countries have been quick to catch the same high levels of average life expectancy as the developed nations. However, there are stark exceptions. The Sub-Sahara African countries have shown least improvement in achieving better life expectancy.
The underlying reason being the political turmoil, civil wars, natural calamities; but the worse damage has been done by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. More than 39 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and 3 million died of the disease in 2005 alone. Falling life expectancy has been one of the most visible impacts of HIV/AIDS on the HDI. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the epicenter of the crisis, infection rates have been growing far more rapidly for women than for men. Women now account for 57% of HIV infections in the region and young African women (ages 15–24) are now three times more likely to become infected than men.
(UNDP HDR 2006, P:266) Even the survival rate for infants measured as Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) paints a dismal picture for economic powerhouses like India. The report flays India’s record on primary health by stating that though “India is one of the success stories of globalization: its GDP per capita growth has averaged 4% a year since 1990. India is one of the success stories of globalization: its GDP per capita growth has averaged 4% a year since 1990. But the trend rate for reducing child mortality has slowed from 2. 9% a year in the 1980s to 2. 2% since 1990.
While India has outperformed Bangladesh in economic growth and average income, Bangladesh has outperformed India in reducing child death rates, maintaining a rate of decline of 3. 45% since 1990. ” (UNDP HDR 2006, P:267) Education Progress in education is a great measure of a country’s economic potential. Skilled and educated labor can fill the void of limited natural resources or even help to tap existing natural resources efficiently, higher literacy rates are imperative. One of the main issues with education deficits have been the gender inequality. Females have had limited opportunities for education advancement.
The report highlights “Women still account for about two-thirds of adult illiteracy—the same as in the 1990s. Net primary enrolment ratios have increased across the developing world, and the gender equity gap in enrolment is shrinking in all regions. Set against this good news, the bad news is that 115 million children are still out of school—and some 62 million of them are girls. ” (UNDP HDR 2006, P: 267) The “enrolment-completion” gap seems to be the primary challenge of the developing countries. In countries like Burkina Faso, 40% of the children enrolling in the schools end up dropping out without completing even the primary education.
The second issue is poor transition from secondary to post secondary education. In developed countries a student is 50% more likely to reach the university/college level education than a student in developing countries, who has less than 10% chance of earning a degree. Third and most important point is the inequity in education level between men and women, results in lower family income, poor family planning that subsequently leads to higher Infant Mortality Rates. Education and Life Expectancy converge where women of the developing countries are concerned.