Guyana’s human development level up but still below average for region

Guyana’s level of human development is below the average for countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region, according to the latest United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) released last week.

“Guyana’s 2013 HDI of 0.638 is above the average of 0.614 for countries in the medium human development group and below the average of 0.740 for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the report says. Guyana’s HDI value of 0.638 places the country in the medium human development category— positioning the country at 121 out of 187 countries and territories.

This year, three countries in the region – Chile, Cuba and Argentina – feature in the very high human development group, with the majority of the region’s 33 countries grouped among those of high or medium human development. Only one, Haiti, remains in the low human development group.

The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. Between 1980 and 2013, Guyana’s HDI value increased from 0.516 to 0.638, an increase of 23.6 percent or an average annual increase of about 0.65 percent, the report said. The rank is shared with Vietnam.

Chisa Mikami, Resident Representative (ag), UNDP (right), officially handing over a copy of the UNDP’s Human Development 2014 Report to Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh last week. (GINA photo)
Chisa Mikami, Resident Representative (ag), UNDP (right), officially handing over a copy of the UNDP’s Human Development 2014 Report to Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh last week. (GINA photo)

For the Latin America and Caribbean region, countries which are close to Guyana in the 2013 HDI rank and to some extent in population size, are Suriname and Belize, which have HDIs ranked 100 and 84 respectively – a higher level of human development.

The report noted that the HDI is an average measure of basic human development achievements in a country and like all averages, the HDI masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population at the country level. Guyana’s HDI of 0.638 when adjusted for inequality, falls to 0.522, a loss of 18.2 percent.

The report noted that a long and healthy life is measured by life expectancy while access to knowledge is measured by mean years of education among the adult population, which is the average number of years of education received in a lifetime by people aged 25 years and older; and expected years of schooling for children of school-entry age, which is the total number of years of schooling a child of school-entry age can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrolment rates stay the same throughout the child’s life. Standard of living is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita expressed in constant 2011 international dollars converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates.

“Between 1980 and 2013, Guyana’s life expectancy at birth increased by 5.7 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.7 years and expected years of schooling increased by 1 year. Guyana’s GNI per capita increased by about 173.9 percent between 1980 and 2013,” the report says.

The report says that the average life expectancy for a Guyanese is 66.3 years (for men it is 63.6 years while for females, it is 68.9 years) while mean years of schooling stands at 8.5 years. Mortality rates for infants’ stands at 29 per 1,000 live births while for children under five years, the figure stands at 35 per 1,000 live births. The report says that 5% of Guyanese pregnant women living with HIV are not receiving treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission.


Multidimensional poverty


The report also reveals that the percentage of Guyana’s population near multidimensional poverty stands at 18.8 while 1.2 per cent of the population experiences severe poverty. “The most recent survey data that were publically available for Guyana MPI (Multidimensional Poverty Index) estimation refer to 2009. In Guyana 7.8 per cent of the population are multi-dimensionally poor while an additional 18.8 per cent are near multidimensional poverty. The breadth of deprivation (intensity) in Guyana, which is the average of deprivation scores experienced by people in multidimensional poverty, is 40.0 per cent,” the report says.

The MPI identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in education, health and living standards. A deprivation score of 33.3 per cent is used to distinguish between the poor and non-poor. If the household deprivation score is 33.3 per cent or greater, the household (and everyone in it) is classed as multi-dimensionally poor. Households with a deprivation score greater than or equal to 20 per cent but less than 33.3 per cent are near multidimensional poverty.

Meantime, the report says that Guyana has a Gender Inequality Index (GII) value of 0.524, ranking it 113 out of 149 countries in the 2013 index. “In Guyana, 31.3 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 61.5 per cent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 48.8 per cent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 280 women die from pregnancy related causes; and the adolescent birth rate is 88.5 births per 1,000 live births. Female participation in the labour market is 42.3 per cent compared to 80.9 for men,” the report says.

According to a press statement, compared to all other developing regions, Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest HDI. The report, entitled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” stresses that despite recording the biggest drop in inequality, the region is still the most unequal in the world in terms of income, while citizen insecurity is alarmingly high.

The report reveals that more than 45 million vulnerable people in Latin America and the Caribbean are at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty—with multiple deprivations in their education, health and living standards—if financial, natural or other setbacks occur.

The report stresses personal insecurity as a key challenge in the region, which records the highest homicide rates, higher than 70 per 100,000 inhabitants. And many, especially women, feel that their personal security is at risk, the report says.

Among the most vulnerable groups, the report stresses that indigenous peoples are particularly exposed, tending to have poor educational achievements, unequal access to land and other productive assets, and fewer opportunities.

Informal workers—mostly in urban settings and with precarious livelihoods— are also highly vulnerable, the report adds, while reiterating the call for universal social protection: “In the long run access to more decent jobs can boost human development, social trust and citizen security.”

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