Human Development Report: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

15 Nov 2010

2010 Human Development Report: Eastern Europe and Central Asia found highly advanced and ‘equitable’, but life expectancy decline in former Soviet Union slows area’s long-term development progress.

New Horizons - Recent EU entrants among top performers in 2010 Human Development Index, with rising incomes and literacy rates, but countries of former Soviet Union losing ground in life expectancy in recent decades ,the 20th anniversary Report reveals.

The 20th anniversary edition of UNDP’s Human Development Report, in a detailed new review of global progress in recent decades as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI), shows that most Eastern European countries made major gains in this period of profound regional change, but the largest countries from the former Soviet Union suffered severe health setbacks.

The 2010 Report - The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development - examines progress in health, education and income since 1970, as measured by the HDI, for the 135 countries for which comparable data is available.

This 40-year period encompasses an era of profound political and economic transformation throughout the region, including the transition at the midpoint from the centralized controls of the Soviet era to the independence of the former Soviet republics and the reclaimed sovereignty and democratization of many other nations in the region. This was accompanied by a swift and often difficult integration into the international market economy, with sometimes disruptive impacts on health and living standards.

The 40-years trends analysis reveals that Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the highest “underperformance” rates – countries whose progress on the HDI is significantly below what would have been predicted by their initial stage of development. The greatest single factor in terms of HDI indicators was health: Average life expectancy in the Russian Federation dropped from 69 in 1970 to 67 in 2010, in neighboring Belarus from 71 to 70, and Ukraine from 71 to 69, the Report shows.

“Although the collapse of socialist and communist systems in Central and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union presented new economic and political opportunities, the transition process affected countries in the region differently,” said Jeni Klugman, the Report’s lead author. “The introduction of democratic practices, for example, did not necessarily translate into sustained human development achievements.”

Literacy rates have been consistently high and increasing throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with an average of 96 percent in 2010, up from 91 percent in 1970. In terms of years of schooling, the Czech Republic and Estonia perform best, each with an average of 12 years. Turkey lags behind, with 6.5 mean years of schooling, with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (8.2 years) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (8.7).

Overall, Eastern Europe and Central Asia have a relatively high per capita income of US$11,462, but this varies from more than US$20,000 for European Union members like Slovakia and the Czech Republic to less than US$3,000 in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

2010 Human Development Index

The 2010 HDI, which introduces technical adjustments to some its traditional indicators in health, education and income for 169 countries, illustrates a wide range of national development across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. (Due to the methodological refinements, the 2010 country rankings are not comparable to those from previous years.)

The eight countries in the top or ‘very high’ human development category in the new HDI are all recent European Union entrants: the Czech Republic (28), Slovenia (29), Slovakia (31), Malta (33), Estonia (34), Cyprus (35), Hungary (36) and Poland (41).Most other countries are in the second ‘high human development’ HDI quartile, with five in the ‘medium’ category: – Turkmenistan (87) and Moldova (99) as well as Uzbekistan (102), Kyrgyzstan (109) and Tajikistan (112).

In addition to the 40-year trends analysis and the 2010 HDI, the 2010 Human Development Report introduces three new indices that measure the scale and impact of extreme “multidimensional” poverty, inequality and gender gaps.

In its new measure of inequality, taking into account disparities in health, education and income in 139 countries, Eastern Europe emerges on average as the most equitable region in the developing world. The Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia have the smallest losses – 6-7 percent – on the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, while Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic Republics experience losses of 11-12 percent; Turkmenistan suffered an HDI loss of 26.4 percent.

The Gender Inequality Index – which captures gender gaps in reproductive health, empowerment and workforce participation in 138 countries – reveals that the percentage of women in parliament is relatively low throughout the region, though they are close to parity with men in educational attainment and employment in most countries. The overall loss due to gender inequality in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is 19 percent; South Asia, by contrast, had the largest regional loss, with 35 percent.

Reports from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan suggest an upsurge in traditionalism with calls to re-establish polygamy and change laws to make it more difficult for women to initiate divorce. Arranged marriages have increased, and bride payments and “bride-napping” have re-emerged in some countries, the Report says.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) – which identifies serious deprivations in health, education and living standards in 104 countries – shows that “multidimensional” poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is relatively rare, affecting three percent of the population, compared to 10 percent in Latin America and 65 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, for example. Tajistan has the region’s highest share of multidimensionally poor, at 17 percent. But MPI rates are close to zero in several countries, with higher figures of 5-7 percent found in Azerbaijan, , Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. These relatively low figures reflect specific MPI indicators and do not imply an absence of otherwise severe economic hardship in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

For further information about the report, please visit http://hdr.undp.org.