In search of a just Jamaica

In search of a just Jamaica

Inequalities push down latest human development index


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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Jamaica continues to enjoy an uptick in its human development index (HDI) but the inequality in how resources are shared remains an issue.

In its 2019 Human Development Report released yesterday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranks Jamaica at 96 out of 189 countries and territories with a HDI value of 0.726.

This puts Jamaica among the countries with high human development on a list led by Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, and Germany, in that order.

Jamaica's ranking is shared with Venezuela but leaves the island below regional states Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic.

“Between 1990 and 2018, Jamaica's HDI value increased from 0.641 to 0.726, an increase of 13.2 per cent. Between 1990 and 2018, Jamaica's life expectancy at birth increased by 1.2 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.9 years, and expected years of schooling increased by 1.9 years,” said the UNDP report.

The UNDP further noted that, “Jamaica's 2018 HDI of 0.726 is below the average of 0.750 for countries in the high human development group and below the average of 0.759 for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. From Latin America and the Caribbean, countries which are close to Jamaica in 2018 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago, which have HDIs ranked 89 and 63 (respectively).”

But the UNDP pointed out that the HDI is an average measure of basic human development achievements in a country, and like all averages it masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population.

In 2010, the UNDP introduced the inequality-adjusted HDI, which is dubbed the IHDI and this takes into account inequality in the three dimensions of the HDI by discounting each dimension's average value according to its level of inequality.

When Jamaica's ranking is adjusted for inequality the HDI falls to 0.604, a loss of 16.7 per cent, which is better than the regional average but still cause for concern.

“The average loss due to inequality for high HDI countries is 17.9 per cent and for Latin America and the Caribbean it is 22.3 per cent,” said the report.

In the Gender Inequality Index (GII) — which reflects inequalities based on gender in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity — Jamaica is ranked 93 out of 162 countries.

“Reproductive health is measured by maternal mortality and adolescent birth rates; empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women and attainment in secondary and higher education by each gender; and economic activity is measured by the labour market participation rate for women and men.

“The GII can be interpreted as the loss in human development due to inequality between female and male achievements,” said the report.

“In Jamaica, 19.0 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 69.9 per cent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 62.4 per cent of their male counterparts.

“For every 100,000 live births, 89 women die from pregnancy-related causes; and the adolescent birth rate is 52.8 births per 1,000 women of ages 15-19. Female participation in the labour market is 60.4 per cent compared to 73.9 for men,” noted the UNDP.

UNDP resident representative in Jamaica Denise Antonio, whose presentation to mark the release of the report yesterday was delivered by UNDP Programmes Specialist Richard Kelly, argued that the theme of this year's publication, 'Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, Beyond Today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century', is appropriate because even when the numbers appear to be positive, there has been a rise in discontentment around the globe as people perceive a heightened level of unfairness in their societies and often the root cause is inequality.

“The depth of this inequality must be assessed beyond basic data that traditionally informs our policies. For this reason, I implore all of us — Government, development partners, non-government organisations and citizens — to look beyond income, beyond averages and beyond today so that together we can find effective and sustainable solutions aligned to the context of Jamaica's Vision 2030,” said Antonio.

“As we contemplate how best to further Jamaica's development progress, the proposals in the report and data contained in the various indices may provide a pool of evidence on which to construct more equitable and just societies,” added Antonio.

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