Lagging behind in Southeast Asia

October 29, 2014 at 11:20

Mahar Mangahas

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:59 AM | Saturday, October 25th, 2014


Let us open our eyes to the fact that Human Development in our country has been very weak, for several decades. I capitalize Human Development here because I use the Human Development Index (HDI), a branded annual statistic of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The new Human Development Report, released on July 24, 2014, has figures up to 2013.

HDI in the world. The basic HDI does not cover everything, but it covers plenty—a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. It combines: (a) life expectancy at birth, (b) schooling of people presently aged 25 and up, (c) schooling a child of school-entrance age may expect, and (d) Gross National Income per capita (GNIpc). These are enough dimensions to ascertain how any country fares in the world and in its region.

For each component, the UNDP scores a country relative to the best achievement in the world, which is assigned the number of 1.000, and then averages its component scores.

As of 2013, No. 1 in HDI is Norway, at 0.944, and No. 187 is Niger, at 0.337. In Norway, life expectancy is 81.5 years, adults have 12.6 years of school, children can expect 17.6 years of school, and GNIpc is $63,909 (purchasing power parity, i.e., the value of a dollar in the United States, in 2011). In Niger, life expectancy is 58.4 years, adults have 1.4 years of school, children can expect 5.4 years of school, and GNIpc is $873.

In the world as a whole, HDI is 0.702; life expectancy is 70.8 years, adults have 7.7 years of school, children can expect 12.2 years of school, and GNIpc is $13,723.

HDI in Southeast Asia. In 11 countries of the region—the Asean 10 plus Timor Leste—HDI ranges from Singapore’s 0.901 to Myanmar’s (Burma’s) 0.524 (see table). The Philippines, sixth in the region, at 0.660, is below the world average in almost all respects.

The Philippines’ life expectancy of 68.7 years is in eighth place, behind Singapore (82.3), Brunei (78.5), Vietnam (75.9), Malaysia (75.0), Thailand (73.4), Cambodia (71.9), and Indonesia (70.8). It is ahead only of Timor Leste (67.5), Myanmar (65.2) and Lao PDR (58.3).

The Philippines does best in terms of average adult schooling. Its 8.9 years is behind Singapore (10.2) and Malaysia (9.5), and ahead of Brunei (8.7), Indonesia (7.5), Thailand (7.3), Cambodia (5.8), Vietnam (5.5), Lao PDR (4.6), Timor Leste (4.4) and Myanmar (4.0).

But our third-place rank in adult schooling is temporary, since our expected child schooling is only 11.3 years, behind Singapore (15.4), Brunei (14.5), Thailand (13.1), Indonesia and Malaysia (both 12.7), Vietnam (11.9) and Timor Leste (11.7). On this matter it is ahead of only Cambodia (10.9), Lao PDR (10.2) and Myanmar (8.6). The K-to-12 basic education program is quite critical for the Philippines; it is way overdue.

The Philippines’ GNIpc of $6,381 puts it below Singapore (72,371), Brunei (70,883), Malaysia (21,824), Thailand (13,364), Timor Leste (9,674), and Indonesia (8,970), and above only Vietnam (4,892), Lao PDR (4,341) Myanmar (3,998) and Cambodia (2,805), Very slow progress of Philippine HDI.

The last two columns of the table show the extreme weakness of our growth in HDI—only 0.46 percent per year in 1990-2000, and only 0.49 percent per year in 2000-2013.

All our neighbors have progressed much faster, except for Brunei, which is way ahead anyway. Thailand had lower HDI than the Philippines in 1980 and 1990, but overtook us in 2000. Indonesia had lower HDI than the Philippines in 1980, 1990 and 2000, but overtook us in 2005. At this rate, even the countries presently below us will catch up with our HDI soon (compare this to my “Third poorest in Southeast Asia?”, 9/13/2014).

* * *


* * *
A saving grace: gender equality. The UNDP also has a Gender Development Index, which is the ratio of female HDI to male HDI. This ratio is less than one in almost all countries, the notable exceptions being Estonia (1.042), Russia (1.038) and Lithuania (1.036).

The most perfectly equal country is Slovakia, with a ratio of 1.000, i.e., less than one-tenth of one percent difference from perfect equality. Second place is shared by Argentina (1.001, where females do better) and Venezuela (0.999, where males do better)—or deviations of one-tenth of one percent in both Argentina (where females do better than males) and Venezuela (where males do better than females). Gender equality is also very high in Hungary (0.998), Norway (0.997), Sweden (1.004), and the United States (0.995).

Within Southeast Asia, the most gender-equal countries are Thailand, at 0.990, i.e., females only 1.0 percent below males, tied for 14th in world gender-equality, and the Philippines at 0.989, i.e., females only 1.1 percent below males, tied for 17th.

Others in Southeast Asia: Brunei 31st, 0.981; Singapore 52nd, 0.967; Malaysia 91st, 0.935; Indonesia 98th, 0.923; Cambodia 105th, 0.909; Lao PDR 112th, 0.897; and Timor Leste 122nd, 0.875. There are no data for Vietnam and Myanmar.


  All rights to the stock images are owned by Getty Images and its image partners and are protected by United States copyright laws, international treaty provisions and other applicable laws.
Getty Images and its image partners retain all rights and are available for purchase by visiting gettyimages website.

Arangkada Philippines: A Business Perspective — Move Twice As Fast | Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines