Thailand remains in the “very high human development” category for three consecutive years despite a slight drop in the Human Development score

May 31, 2023
UNDP Thailand

Bangkok, 31 May 2023: Global development has stalled. Until 2020, the global human development index – a measure of a nation’s health, education, and average income - had risen every year since 1991, when UNDP began calculating it. It fell in 2020. And it fell again in 2021. And it fell almost everywhere: 90 percent of countries saw a decline in one or other year, wiping out five years of progress.

The latest Human Development Report, “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World” argues that layers of uncertainty are stacking up and interacting to unsettle life in unprecedented ways. The last two years have had a devastating impact for billions of people around the world, when crises like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine hit back-to-back, and interacted with sweeping social and economic shifts, dangerous planetary changes, and massive increases in polarization. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises. We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises that, while it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidizing fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make.” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.

Thailand is no exception.  According to the figures in the report, the 2021 HDI of Thailand came in at 0.800, slightly down from 0.802 in 2020 and the pre-COVID score of 0.804 in 2019. Nevertheless, thanks to the country’s resilience and timely policy responses, Thailand’s 2021 HDI ranking improves by 13 spots from the ranking in the 2019 report and 6 spots from that of 2015, supporting the country to remain in the “very high human development” category for three consecutive years since 2019. 

When disaggregated by gender, female HDI for Thailand (0.805) is higher than that of male (0.796)—a   development not seen in other countries across all categories of human development, even among those in the "very high human development" category.  Still, inequality as well as environmental strains remain persistent.  Thailand’s HDI declines by 14.3% to 0.686 when discounted for inequality. Furthermore, the country’s HDI falls by 8.1% to 0.735 after adjusting for its carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint. 

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The report explores why the change needed isn’t happening and suggests there are many reasons, including how insecurity and polarization are feeding off each other and end up preventing the solidarity and collective action we need to tackle crises at all levels. New calculations show, for instance, that those feeling most insecure are also more likely to hold extreme political views. 

Yet we have solutions to turn the situation around. Doubling down on human development will help us navigate the future and unleash people’s potential to be agents of change. We must break humanity’s current paralysis and set a new course by defusing polarization, rebuilding trust and allowing everyone to be part of decision-making. 

To chart a new course, the report recommends implementing policies that focus on investment — from renewable energy to preparedness for future shocks, and insurance—including social protection— to prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world. Innovation in its many forms— technological, economic, cultural—can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next. 

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“To thrive together, we must throw out the old rulebook and recognize the world has changed. By addressing inequality and enhancing people’s freedoms and opportunities through promoting investment, insurance, and innovation, we can unlock our human potential and thus create futures in which both people and the planet will prosper despite uncertainties.” says Renaud Meyer, Resident Representative of UNDP in Thailand. 

The Seminar on Global Human Development Report today, co-hosted by the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue and UNDP, aims to gather a body of knowledge on human development and facilitate dialogues in view of formulating policy recommendations on human development that can guide and inform Thailand’s incoming government.

The full Global Human Development Report can be accessed via: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2021-22 | United Nations Development Programme (


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