UN ESCAP Working Paper on Filling gaps in Human Development Index: Findings for Asia and the Pacific

Working paper27 Feb 2009

This paper reports on the geographic extension of the Human Development Index from 177 (a several-year plateau in the United Nations Development Programme's HDI) to over 230 economies, including all members and associate members of ESCAP. This increase in geographic coverage makes the HDI more useful for assessing the situations of all economies – including small economies traditionally omitted by UNDP's Human Development Reports.

The components of the HDI are assessed to see which economies in the region display relatively strong performance, or may exhibit weaknesses, in those components. Middle-HDI economies in the region are found to generally lag their peers in GDP per capita, exceed many of their peers in literacy, and slightly lag many of their peers in life expectancy. High-HDI economies in the region tend to parallel their global peers with HDI normally being pulled up by income and literacy, and pulled down by life expectancy. Some lesser-developed economies slightly lead their developmental peers in life expectancy, while a few lag their peers in literacy and/or income. A plot of the Connection Index vs. Basic HDI indicates that Asian-Pacific developing economies tend to lag their global developmental peers in individual connectivity.

Suggestions on using the HDI to support strategizing development policies and programmes are offered. The paper also offers thoughts on possible intellectual extensions, in the direction of a Human Security Index, which the author recently described elsewhere.