Significant improvement in income not enough for higher human development level

04 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.

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.

According to the 2010 HDI, Norway, Australia and New Zealand leading the world in HDI achievement with Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe at the bottom of the annual rankings. Each year, the HDI and other indices are published as part of the global Human Development Report. Global Human Development Reports frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity from climate change to human rights.

Human Development Reports are independent reports, commissioned by UNDP. The reports rely on international data agencies with the mandate, resources and expertise to collect international data on specific indicators. The Report is translated into more than a dozen languages and launched in more than 100 countries annually.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the 2010 report “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development” reaffirms the basic concept of human development as the expansion of people’s freedoms to live long, healthy and creative lives; to advance other goals they have reason to value; and to engage actively in shaping development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet. For further information about the report please visit