Higher income is not enough for human development

15 Nov 2010

In the 20th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) newly adjusted Human Development Index (HDI) indicates that with a value of 0.679, Turkey is listed among countries in the “High Human Development” category, ranking 83rd out of 169 countries. Due to the methodological refinements, the 2010 country rankings are not comparable to those from previous years.


New Horizons - Turkey’s ranking in the 2010 Human Development Index (HDI), puts the country behind all EU member states as well as other EU candidate countries, and places it below the OECD average. Also in the high human development category, countries like Bulgaria, Latvia, and Romania, all of which have lower per capita gross national income (PPP) levels compared to Turkey, rank higher in the index as a result of better mean years of schooling and life expectancy rates. Similarly, Turkey ranks lowest among the four EU candidate countries (others are Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Iceland) and all OECD countries.

With a 112% increase in national income in the past 30 years, Turkey has made noteworthy gains in economic growth, which have reflected in its Gross National Income. However, calculation methodology of the Human Development Index uses key data reflecting health and education levels of countries along with their national incomes. Turkey needs to focus its efforts in increasing the life expectancy at birth (72,2 years in 2010) and mean years of schooling (6,5 years in 2010) to achieve higher ranks in Human Development Index which will bring the country closer to OECD and EU standards.

The 2010 report introduces several adjustments in the indicators and methodology used to calculate the HDI, a summary measure for monitoring long-term progress in the average level of human development in three basic dimensions: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. The indicators measuring access to knowledge and a decent standard of living have changed in the 2010 report. Mean years of adult education and expected years of schooling for children capture the concept of education better than the previous indicators and have stronger discriminating power across countries. Standard of living is now measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in PPP US$, instead of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in PPP US$. GNI adjusts the GDP for various factors and is therefore a better measure of a country’s level of income. It is thus misleading to compare values and rankings across published reports because the underlying data and methods have changed. Turkey’s HDI rank may be attributed to its mean years of schooling, where it is third from the bottom among high human development countries. At 6.5 years, mean years of schooling in Turkey is followed by Venezuela and Kuwait with 6.2 and 6.1 years, respectively. Mean years of schooling in Turkey is also almost half the OECD rate, which stands at 11.4 years based on 2010 figures.

Additionally, this year, three new indices have been introduced on an experimental basis. The Inequality Adjusted HDI (IHDI) takes into account not only the average achievements of a country on health, education and income, but also how those achievements are distributed among its citizens by “discounting” each dimension’s average value according to its level of inequality. The Gender Inequality Index (GII) is also a new measure built on the same framework as the HDI and IHDI to illuminate differences in the distribution of achievements between women and men. And the Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI), identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in education, health and standard of living.

The IHDI equals the HDI when there is no inequality across people but is less than the HDI as inequality rises. It represents the actual level of human development. The IHDI takes into account not only the average achievements of a country on health, education and income, but also how those achievements are distributed among its citizens by “discounting” each dimension’s average value according to its level of inequality. When inequality enters the equation, Turkey’s HDI value falls to 0.518, losing 24% of its original HDI rank. The loss for Bulgaria is only half that value with 11.3% while Romania also loses 12.1% of its initial HDI value, because of inequalities.

Reflecting women’s disadvantages in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity, the Gender Inequality Index (GII) ranks Turkey 77th out of 138 countries, below neighbors like Armenia and Georgia. While women occupy only 9% of seats in the parliament in Turkey, they occupy 31.7% of the seats in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Such figures indicate that Turkey needs to take affirmative action in strengthening measures to ensure gender equality in social, economic and political fields.

Following Peru and Colombia; Turkey and Brazil have the highest MPI value among high human development countries, reflecting deprivation in education, health and other living conditions. At 0.039, the country’s MPI is one of the highest in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, along with Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. According to the 2010 report, 8% of the population suffers multiple deprivations while an additional 19% are vulnerable to multiple deprivations.

Looking at the bigger picture, Turkey’s HDI value shot from 0.467 to 0.679 from 1980 to 2010, equaling a total increase of 45%. This increase ranks Turkey 14th in terms of HDI improvement in comparison to the average progress of countries with a similar initial HDI level. In 30 years, Turkey’s life expectancy at birth increased by almost 12 years, mean years of schooling increased by close to 4 years and expected years of schooling increased by almost 5 years. The most impressive gains were made in Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, increasing by 112% between 1980 and 2010.

Turkey ranks 83rd

Turkey’s HDI value for 2010 is 0.679—in the high human development category—positioning the country at 83 out of 169 countries and areas. Between 1980 and 2010, Turkey’s HDI value increased from 0.467 to 0.679, an increase of 45 per cent or average annual increase of about 1.3 per cent.

With such an increase Turkey is ranked 14 in terms of HDI improvement based on deviation from fit, which measures progress in comparison to the average progress of countries with a similar initial HDI level.

Between 1980 and 2010, Turkey’s life expectancy at birth increased by almost 12 years, mean years of schooling increased by close to 4 years and expected years of schooling increased by almost 5 years. Turkey’s GNI per capita increased by 112 per cent during the same period.

Long-term progress can be usefully assessed relative to a country’s neighbours -- both in terms of geographical location and HDI value. For instance, in 1980, Turkey, Bulgaria and Latvia had close HDI values for countries in Europe and Central Asia. However, during the period between 1980 and 2010 the three countries experienced different degrees of progress toward increasing their HDIs.

Turkey’s 2010 HDI of 0.679 is below the average of 0.717 for countries in Europe and Central Asia. It is also below the average of 0.717 for high human development countries. From Europe and Central Asia, Turkey’s 2010 “HDI neighbours”, i.e. countries which are close in HDI rank and population size, are Serbia and Azerbaijan, which had HDIs ranked 60 and 67 respectively.

Gender equality measures must be taken

Reflecting women’s disadvantages in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity, the Gender Inequality Index (GII) ranks Turkey 77th out of 138 countries, below neighbors like Armenia and Georgia. While women occupy only 9% of seats in the parliament in Turkey, they occupy 31.7% of the seats in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Such figures indicate that Turkey needs to take affirmative action in strengthening measures to ensure gender equality in social, economic and political fields.

In Turkey, a mere 9 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 27 per cent of adult women have a secondary or higher level of education compared to 47 per cent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 44 women die from pregnancy related causes; and the adolescent fertility rate is 39 births per 1000 live births. Female participation in the labour market is 27 per cent compared to 75 per cent for men. The result is a GII value for Turkey of 0.621 ranking it 77 out of 138 countries based on 2008 data. Turkey’s “HDI neighbour”, Azerbaijan, is ranked 62nd on this index.

For detailed information about Turkey's rank in different indicies in the 2010 Human Development Report, please click here.