UN Human Development Report

I've been perusing the latest United Nations Development Report (pdf, 12mb). It's fascinating reading because it uses a combination of 3 important statistics - GDP per capita, literacy levels and life expectancy - that are given equal weight in analysing different countries. A number is produced - a decimal number of three figures that is less than 1.000 - which you can then compare nations by.

Australia maintains its number 3 position on the list with a HDI of 0.962. Iceland is first with 0.968. The US is 12th with 0.951.

The differences between the top 20 countries are only a few decimal points, so while it is nice that Australia is 3rd and the US is way down in 12th place, the reality is that there is not much between these nations.

What the HDI numbers can tell us is how poor and developing nations are going. The UN has broken up countries based upon the HDI number into 3 categories: "Low Human Development" (any figure below 0.500), "Medium Human Development" (between 0.500 and 0.800) and "High Human Development" (0.800 and above).

New First world nations
This is just a list of my own - any nation that has moved above 0.900 are: Greece, Singapore, South Korea, Slovenia and Cyprus.

Nations progressing
Nations which have recently moved from Medium to High development in the last couple of years are Oman, Trinidad and Tobago, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Malaysia, Belarus, Mauritius, Russia, Albania and Brazil.

Nations which have recently moved from Low to Medium development include Madagascar, Sudan (!), Djibouti, Yemen, Uganda and Gambia.

Nations regressing
Nations which have "gone backwards" include:
Portugal (0.904 in 2000 to 0.897 in 2005, "the new sick man of Europe")
Belize (0.795 in 2000 to 0.778 in 2005)
Jamaica (0.744 in 2000, 0.736 in 2005)
South Africa (0.745 in 1995 to 0.674 today - a frightening drop over ten years)
Namibia (0.698 in 1995 to 0.650 today - another bad drop, and next to South Africa too)
Ghana (0.568 in 2000 to 0.553 today)
Lesotho (0.616 in 1995 to 0.549 today - another country located next to South Africa)
Swaziland (0.641 in 1995 to 0.547 today - need I mention this country is located near South Africa?)
Papua New Guinea (0.544 in 2000 to 0.530 today)
Kenya (0.556 in 1990 to 0.521 today - an incremental decrease in standards of living and now civil unrest)
Zimbabwe (0.654 in 1990 to 0.513 today - descending into third-world status, next to South Africa too)
Togo (0.521 in 2000 to 0.512 today)
Chad (0.397 in 2000 to 0.388 today - and the capital city has just been attacked by rebels)

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