UNDP report: "People are healthier, wealthier and better educated"

04 Nov 2010

Fishermen from West Bengal and Orissa, India, work together to bring in the sea’s harvest.
Photo: Saikat Mukherjee/UNDP

People in most of the world have experienced major advances in the past decades, according to the 2010 Human Development Report launched today at the United Nations. Looking back at 40 years of human progress in 135 countries – 92% of the world’s population – the report shows that average life expectancy rose from 59 to 70 years, primary school enrolment grew from 55 to 70 percent, and per capita income doubled to more than US$10,000.

The report, now in its 20th year, introduces the new Human Development Index (HDI), a composite measure of progress in education, health and income, complemented by three innovative indices for gender, inequality and multidimensional poverty. These new indicators confirm that progress is possible even without massive resources. Among the “top movers” –countries among the 135 that improved most over the past 40 years – are Ethiopia (#11), Cambodia (#15) and Benin (#18), all of which made big gains in education and public health rather than income.

“The Human Development Reports have changed the way we see the world,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, launching the report with UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who helped devise the HDI for the first Human Development Report in 1990. “We have learned that while economic growth is very important, what ultimately matters is using national income to give all people a chance at a longer, healthier and more productive life.”

Yet patterns of achievement vary greatly, with remarkable differences in how countries mobilize and use public resources to pursue human development. The region with the fastest progress since 1970 is East Asia, led by China and Indonesia. The Arab countries also posted major gains, with 8 of the 20 “top movers”. However, many countries from sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union lag behind, due to the impact of AIDS, conflict, economic upheaval and other factors.

Helen Clark said, “the Report shows that people today are healthier, wealthier and better educated than before. While not all trends are positive, there is much that countries can do to improve people’s lives, even in adverse conditions. This requires courageous local leadership as well as the continuing commitment of the international community.”

For more information, please visit the Human Development Report website: http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Download: Summary | Complete report | New HDI