PHL human dev’t improves but lags

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By Mark T. Amoguis
Senior Researcher

THE PHILIPPINES remained at the bottom half of an index that tracks human development across economies despite an improvement in overall score, according to a United Nations report released on Monday.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Report 2019, titled “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century,” placed the Philippines 106th out of 189 economies in 2018, with a Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.712 on a 0-1 scale wherein the latter reflects the best performance.

The Philippines’ ranking in 2018 steadied from 2017 even as its latest HDI score was higher than 0.709 previously.

The Philippines’ HDI score compared to 0.686 for “developing countries,” 0.741 for East Asia and the Pacific, and to the global average of 0.731.

The HDI is a summary measure in three key dimensions of human development, namely: a long healthy life (life expectancy), access to knowledge (expected years and mean years of schooling), and a decent standard of living (per capita gross national income).

The UNDP cautioned that the latest data, which include HDI values and ranks, are not comparable to those published in earlier editions as “national and international agencies continually improve their data series.” Instead, UNDP provided a historical “interpolated consistent data” to enable comparability.

The latest report estimated the Philippines’ average annual HDI growth at 0.67% from 1990 to 2018, broken down to 0.67% from 1990-2000, 0.62% in the period 2000-2010 and 0.73% in 2010-2018.

Meanwhile, the inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), which accounts for “inequality in distribution of each dimension across the population” pulled the Philippines’ score in 2018 down to 0.582 from the unadjusted 0.712.

According to the UNDP, the IHDI matches HDI when inequality does not exist, but falls below the HDI as inequality rises.

Aside from the overall ranking, economies are also grouped into four “tiers” of development: “very high” (with an HDI of at least 0.800), “high” (0.700-0.799), “medium” (0.550-0.699), and “low” (below 0.550).

This puts the Philippines’ HDI in the “high” category with the likes of Thailand (steady at 77th in 2018 from 2017, with an HDI score of 0.765), China (85th from 86th with a 0.758 HDI score), Mongolia (92nd from 94th with 0.735), and Indonesia (steady at 111th, 0.707).

Southeast Asian economies that were counted among those with “very high” HDI were Singapore (steady in ninth spot, 0.935), Brunei (steady at 43rd, 0.845) and Malaysia (steady at 61st, 0.804).

Meanwhile, those in the “medium” category were Vietnam (steady at 118th in 2018, with an HDI score of 0.693), Timor-Leste (steady at 131st with 0.626), Laos (steady at 140th, 0.604), Myanmar (145th from 146th, 0.584) and Cambodia (146th from 145th with a score of 0.581).

The latest edition’s top-performing economy was Norway, followed by Switzerland and Ireland in second and third places, respectively. Tied at fourth place were Hong Kong and Germany.

“The government needs to focus not just on the infrastructure development, but also, and most especially, on people development,” said UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion in an e-mail.

“Addressing unemployment among the youth and population management are key issues moving forward.”

How does Philippines’ human development compare with that of its peers?