The Kathmand Post, 23rd March 2017
Nepal has graduated to medium human development grouping in the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI), indicating Nepalis are growing healthier, becoming more educated and earning more.
Nepal secured a score of 0.558 in HDI in 2015, as against 0.548 in 2014, says the Human Development Report 2016 published by the UN.
With this score, Nepal secured 144th position in the HDI among 188 countries surveyed by the UN. This ranking is same as that of the previous year. The slight improvement in the score also helped Nepal to escalate to the medium human development group from the low human development group.
The HDI integrates three basic dimensions of human development, according to the UN. Life expectancy at birth reflects the ability to lead a long and healthy life. Mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling reflect the ability to acquire knowledge. And gross national income per capita reflects the ability to achieve a decent standard of living.
Life expectancy at birth of Nepalis on average rose to 70 years in 2015 from 69.6 a year ago. Similarly, expected years of schooling of every Nepali stood at 12.2 years in 2015, while mean years of schooling hovered around four years. Likewise, gross national income per capita increased to $2,337 in 2015 from $2,311 a year ago. These HDI values, however, are way below that of Sri Lanka, which leads the HDI league table in South Asia. Nepal also lags behind the Maldives, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh in terms of human development.
“Human development is a process of enlarging people’s choices. But human development is also the objective, so it is both a process and an outcome,” says the UN’s report titled ‘Human Development for Everyone’. This implies people must influence the processes that shape their lives.
“In all this, economic growth is an important means to human development, but not the end,” says the report, adding, “Human development is the development of the people through building human capabilities, by the people through active participation in the processes that shape their lives and for the people by improving their lives. It is broader than other approaches, such as the human resource approach, the basic needs approach and the human welfare approach.”
The 2014 Nepal National Human Development Report had found wide variations in HDI values across population groups in Nepal, although the trends are towards less inequality. The Newar people have the highest HDI value, 0.565. Close on the heels are Brahmins and Chhetris, with HDI value of 0.538. This was followed by Janajatis, with HDI value of 0.482, Dalits (0.434) and Muslims (0.422).
The variations in HDI values are even significant within these groups, depending on where they live. The highest inequalities are in education, and this may have pronounced long-term effects on capabilities later in life.
Yet Nepal has been trying to bridge this gap in education.
The Welcome to School Initiative, for instance, led to an increase in net enrolment of 470,000 children, 57 percent of them girls, within a year of its implementation in 2005. The programme primarily focused on girls and disadvantaged groups. “Nepal’s policy on adolescent girls was initially centred on health and education but now encompasses needs in employment, skills development and civic participation,” says the report.