with inputs from Danica M. Uy, Mar 23, 2017, Businessworld
THE PHILIPPINES’ stature as one of Asia-Pacific’s fastest-growing economies notwithstanding, human development in the country is below average in the region, according to a United Nations report released yesterday that used 2015 data.
Both the government and economists deem increased investment in education and health services as crucial to the task of improving quality of the country’s human capital.
The United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2016, titled “Human Development for Everyone,” showed the Philippines ranked 116th out of 188 countries and territories in 2015 — with a Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.682 on a 0-1 scale wherein the latter reflects the best performance — from 114th in 2014.
The Philippines’ HDI score compared to 0.668 for “developing countries,” 0.72 for East Asia and the Pacific and to the world’s 0.717.
The HDI consists of three key human development dimensions, namely: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. These, in turn, consist of life expectancy at birth, expected years of schooling, mean years of schooling and gross national income per capita.
Adjusting for inequalities across the three key HDI dimensions pulls the Philippines’ score down to 0.556 from 0.682.
The UNDP cautioned that it would be misleading to compare HDI values and rankings with those of previously published reports, due to revisions and updates of data and adjustments to methodology.
Instead, it latest report estimated the Philippines’ average annual HDI growth at 0.61 from 1990 to 2015, broken down into 0.60 in the period 1990-2000, 0.72 in 2000-2010 and 0.39 in 2010-2015.
The Philippines’ 0.682 puts it in the “medium human development” category together with the likes of Indonesia (flat at 113rd in 2015 from 2014, with an HDI value of 0.689), Vietnam (115th in 2015, flat from 2014, with an HDI score of 0.683), India (flat at 131st, 0.624), Timor Leste (flat at 133rd, 0.605), Laos (138th from 137th, 0.586), Cambodia (flat at 143rd, 0.563) and Myanmar (145th from 146th, 0.556).
Southeast Asian countries that were counted among those with “very high human development” were Singapore (fifth in 2015 from fourth in 2014, with an HDI value of 0.925) and Brunei Darussalam (flat at 30th for those years, with a 0.865 HDI value).
The “high human development” bracket includes China (90th from 91st, 0.738), as well as Southeast Asia’s Malaysia (flat at 59th, 0.789) and Thailand (87th from 88th, 0.740), among others.
This year’s top five were Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, as well as Denmark and Singapore tied in fifth place.
The year 2015 saw the Philippine economy grow by 5.9%, next only to India, China and Vietnam among comparable Asia-Pacific economies in this regard.
Sought for comment, University of the Asia & the Pacific Senior Economist Cid L. Terosa said in a mobile phone message that “[t]he Philippines can improve its HDI by improving access to and delivery of social services, particularly education and health” as well as by ramping up “productivity and to create more and better employment opportunities.”
Mitzie Irene P. Conchada, economics professor at the De La Salle University, said separately via text that while “[t]he government is taking steps in improving our human capital… We still have a long way to go and results might be felt in the medium to long term.”
“I think investing in health is equally important in improving human capital,” she said. —