Students are seen walking to school in Manila, Feb. 24, 2024. — PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE PHILIPPINES jumped five spots in the latest Human Development Index, but remained one of the laggards in Southeast Asia, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said.

The Philippines ranked 113th out of 193 countries in the UNDP’s index, which measures a country’s health, education and standard of living.

The Philippines’ score improved to 0.71 in 2022 from 0.692 in 2021. This also marked the country’s highest score since 0.714 in 2019.

Philippines moves up in Human Development IndexThe Philippines’ score was below East Asia and the Pacific’s average of 0.766 and the global average of 0.739.

In Southeast Asia, human development levels were “very high” in Hong Kong (fourth), Singapore (ninth), Brunei Darussalam (55th), Malaysia (63rd), and Thailand (66th).

The Philippines had a “high” human development level, along with Vietnam (107th) and Indonesia (112th).

On the other hand, human development was considered “medium” in Laos (139th), Myanmar (144th), Cambodia (148th) and Timor-Leste (155th).

“The world has achieved a new record in human development. After steep losses in 2020 and 2021, the Human Development Index… has climbed to its highest level ever recorded at the global level,” the UNDP said in a report.

While the index value is greater than in 2019, the UNDP said it does not mean the world has fully recovered from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and other crises.

“Essentially, we have not reached the level of human development that could have been expected had the pandemic not happened,” it said.

Life expectancy at birth is at 72.2 years in the Philippines,” according to the Human Development Index. The expected years of schooling for Filipinos is 12.8, while the mean years of school is nine.

Life expectancy in Singapore is 84.1, with 16.9 expected years of schooling and 11.9 mean years of school.

The Philippines’ gross national income per capita is about $9,059, a far cry from Singapore’s $88,761.

The Philippines also ranked 92nd in the gender inequality index with a score of 0.388, while its gender development score stood at 0.966.

Jose Enrique A. Africa, executive director of think tank IBON Foundation, said the Philippines’ human development ranking does not reflect an improvement in the poverty situation.

“The appearance of improvement is unwarranted though, because the country’s economic growth has long been grossly inequitable and manifests disproportionately as income, profit and wealth gains for the richest rather than a generalized improvement in the conditions of the majority,” he said in a Viber message.

Almost half of Filipino families, equivalent to 13 million households, consider themselves poor, according to a survey by the Social Weather Stations in late 2023.

Mr. Africa said the index’s measure of education does not even capture the poor quality of education in the country.

“Amid low family incomes, the government has so much more to do to improve the reach and quality of the public school system,” he said.

The Philippines had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world, with schools closed between April 2020 and March 2022. — B.M.D.Cruz