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Human Development Index — Key Findings

How can one measure countries’ well-being beyond the size of their economies?

August 23, 2004

How can one measure countries' well-being beyond the size of their economies?

On July 15, 2004, the UNDP published the most recent edition of its Human Development Report. The report measures a variety of factors that all have an impact on the development and productivity of its citizens.

The human development index (HDI) is a composite index that measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development:

A long and healthy life — as measured by life expectancy at birth.
Knowledge — as measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary schools.
A decent standard of living — as measured by GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) U.S. dollars.

For a more detailed explanation of the methodology, please click here. (Document requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Rankings in the 2004 HDI
Source: United Nations Human Development Report, 2004

Only one country in the top ten — the United States — is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The other permanent Security Council members rank as follows: United Kingdom (12), France (16), Russian Federation (57) and China (94).
Three of the top five nations — Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands also rank the highest in terms of Official Development Assistance disbursed throughout the world.
Some 55 countries are considered to have "high" human development, while 86 have "medium" human development — and 36 have "low" human development. Due to a lack of comparable data, 16 UN member countries are not included in the index.
Norway has the highest overall ranking and is also the leading European country in the index. Germany — the largest Western European country — is ranked 19th.
The highest-ranking country in North America is Canada (4), followed by the United States (8) and Mexico (53).
Japan has the highest rank among all Asian countries — followed by Hong Kong (23) and Singapore (25).
Slovenia leads all Eastern European countries in 27th place — ahead of the Czech Republic (32) and Estonia (36).
In Latin America, Argentina (34) has a higher human development score than Chile (43) and Costa Rica (45).
Australia (3) is ranked highest in the Pacific region, followed by New Zealand (18).
Among Middle Eastern countries, Bahrain places the highest (40), followed by Kuwait (44) and Qatar (47).
No African countries are among the 55 nations with a high human development score. The highest-ranking African country is Libya in 58th place.
Of the 36 countries with a low human development score, all but three — Pakistan (142), Haiti (153) and Timor-Leste (158) — are located in Africa.
Cuba (52) is considered to have high human development. In contrast, Russia (57), Brazil (72), Turkey (88), China (94), South Africa (119) and India (127) all are classified as medium human development countries.

For the full 2004 Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Program, please click here.

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