UNITED NATIONS — A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report has spotlighted long-term national progress in Caribbean countries.
The report, 'The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development', has shown that Latin American and Caribbean countries are approaching nearly full school enrolment and average 80-year life expectancies.
"Forty years ago, barely half of the region's school-age children were attending school. Today the figure exceeds four-fifths, with some countries at almost 100 per cent enrolment," it said.
Despite progress over the last decade, the report said, the region is hampered by income distribution "that is still the most acutely skewed in the world."
"In some respects, especially school enrolment, Latin America and the Caribbean is approaching the levels of Europe and North America," said Jeni Klugman, the lead author of the Human Development Report. "Targeted social policies have a lot to do with these achievements. Yet inequality remains the region's greatest challenge."
The 2010 report examines gains over 40 years in health, education and incomes, as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI), for the 135 countries for which comparable data is available. The countries include more than 90 per cent of the world's population and most of Latin American and the Caribbean.
Overall, the report noted that the region has improved by about one-third in HDI terms since 1970. Average life expectancy has climbed from 60 to 74 years, the report notes. The lowest is 62 years in Haiti to 79 years in Costa Rica, Chile and Cuba.
School enrolment in the region over the past four decades rose even more dramatically — to 83 per cent in 2010, up from 52 per cent in 1970.
With an average of almost eight years of schooling for the adult population, Latin America and the Caribbean is second among developing regions after Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which has a 10-year average, the report noted.
In addition to the 40-year trends analysis, the 2010 Human Development Report introduces three new indices that capture inequality, gender gaps and extreme multidimensional poverty, as well as a strengthened 2010 HDI.
The report's new Inequality-Adjusted HDI shows that inequality in health, education and income reduces the region's HDI performance by one-fourth, with Haiti among countries experiencing the greatest losses.
Looking at income inequality alone, nine of the 15 countries with the largest HDI losses in the world from income inequality are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report's gender inequality Index shows that gender discrimination is also well above the world average, mainly due to high rates of child birth among adolescents and low participation by women in the paid labour force.
The most pronounced gender gaps are found in Central America — Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — and Haiti, the region's lowest performer on the Index. Cuba ranks as the most equal society in Latin American and the Caribbean in gender terms.
The Report's new Multidimensional Poverty Index which measures multiple deprivations in health, education and living standards in 104 countries, estimates that 10 per cent of the region's people live in conditions of "multidimensional poverty."
National variations are huge, however, from two percent in Uruguay to a stunning 57 per cent in Haiti, the report says.