2010 Human Development Report: Asian countries lead development progress over 40 years

Nov 9, 2010

China, Indonesia, Laos among top HDI performers since 1970; ‘multidimensional’ poverty, gender gaps, rising inequality identified as region’s big challenges
Ha Noi – The 20th anniversary edition of the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Report, launched today in Ha Noi, spotlights countries that made the greatest progress in recent decades as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI), with China, Indonesia, Lao PDR and South Korea all making the Report’s "Top 10 Movers” list.

The HDI, a measure of human development covering healthand education as well as income, was devised by the late Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq for the first Human Development Report in 1990. It challenged purely economic measures of national achievement. The new 20th anniversary edition of the Report, The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, revisits the original analysis and looks at human development trends over the last forty years.
40-year trends
East Asia and the Pacific had by far the strongest overall HDI performance of any region in the world, nearly doubling average HDI attainment over the past 40 years, according to the Report’s analysis of health, education and income data for the 135 countries where complete and comparable information was available.
China, the second highest achiever in the world in terms of HDI improvement since 1970, is the only country on the “Top 10 Movers” list due to income rather than health or education achievements. China’s per capita income increased a stunning 21-fold over the last four decades. Yet China was not among the region’s top performers in improving school enrolment and life expectancy.
In the last four decades per capita income in Viet Nam has also risen dramatically, increasing five-fold. This positions Viet Nam as the 8th  top mover in the world in terms of per capita GDP growth. This has helped lift millions of Vietnamese out of income poverty. However, similarly to China, this income achievement has not positioned Viet Nam as a top performer in terms of general human development improvements.      
"One important finding from the Human Development Reports is that development progress cannot be measured simply by the level of national income. Economic growth alone does not automatically improve the quality of life of citizens,” said John Hendra, UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam, at the launch.
HDI trends since 1990 show that Bangladesh and Cambodia have been the best performers in the region.
Life expectancy in East Asia and the Pacific climbed to an average of 73 years in 2010 from 59 in 1970. In Viet Nam, life expectancy has increased substantially from 49 years in 1970 to 75 years in 2010.
In education, literacy rates in East Asia and the Pacific rose to 94 percent in 2010 compared to 53 percent in 1970. In Viet Nam, the average years of schooling increased by 1.5 years between 1990 and 2010 and expected years of schooling by almost three years. However, since the early 2000s progress in education has slowed down. During the last five year expected years of schooling have only increased marginally, from 10.3 years to 10.4 years. Furthermore, Viet Nam does relatively worse on this account than most other countries in the region, with the average Vietnamese student expected to stay at school three years less than peers in Thailand, and two years less than Malaysians students.   
2010 HDI update
The 2010 HDI illustrates the wide range of development achievements in the region.
The Republic of Korea ranked highest among the countries grouped on the HDI as part of East Asia and Pacific – number 12 in the world, which is in the "very high human development” category, followed by Hong Kong, China (SAR) (21) and Singapore (27). Afghanistan (155) ranked lowest amongst Asian countries out of the 169 countries assessed. Viet Nam ranked 113, which is a similar ranking to 2009. Compared to other countries in the region Viet Nam has a higher level of human development than India (ranked 119) and Cambodia (124), but still has some way to go before it catches up with Thailand (92) and the Philippines (97).
The 2010 Human Development Report also introduces three new indices that capture multidimensional poverty, inequality and gender disparities.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index identifies deprivations in health, education and income at the household level. Rates of multidimensional poverty are relatively low in most of East Asia and the Pacific, including China and Thailand, though more than half of Cambodians are estimated to be multidimensionally poor. In Viet Nam the rate of multidimensional poverty is relatively low but the intensity is high. This means that those who are multidimensionally poor suffer severe deprivations,
in particular access to drinking water and sanitation.    
The Report’s new Inequality-adjusted HDI measures the effect of inequality in 139 countries. For East Asia it shows that most countries have higher income inequality today than was the case a few decades ago, due in part to widening gaps between rural areas and the rapidly industrializing cities. Compared to other countries in the region inequality in Viet Nam is less severe.
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 countries of East Asia and the Pacific fall in the lower half on gender inequality, with Papua New Guinea among the bottom ten.
Viet Nam's ranking is higher than countries such as Thailand and the Philippines, reflecting strong progress in promoting gender equality in areas like education and health. However, continued investment is needed to maintain progress and address areas where women continue to lag behind, such as the health and education status of women in remote and ethnic minority communities, the gender wage gap, participation in local level decision-making and gender-based violence. These areas are not measured by the new Gender Inequality Index.
Note to editors:
For HDI calculations and other purposes, the Human Development Report includes 24 countries in its “East Asia and Pacific” region: Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Korea (Republic of), Lao PDR, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam. The nine countries included in “South Asia” are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
This year’s HDI should not be compared to the HDI that appeared in previous editions of the Human Development Report due to the use of different indicators and calculations. For more information on the 20th anniversary Human Development Report and the complete press kit please visit: http://hdr.undp.org/

ABOUT THIS REPORT: Since its inception in 1990, the Human Development Report has provided fresh insights into some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. The Human Development Report is an independent yearly publication of the United Nations Development Programme. All Reports since 1990 are available for free downloading on the Report website: http://hdr.undp.org/
ABOUT UNDP: UNDP is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working collaboratively on their own solutions to national and global development challenges. Please visit: www.undp.org

Contact information

Pernille Goodall, UN communications team
Email: pernille.goodall@undp.org
Tel: 043822 4383, ext: 123

Nguyen Viet Lan, UN communications team
Email: nguyen.viet.lan@undp.org
Tel: 043822 4383, ext: 121