Jun 15, 2014 - 0 Comments - Data -

Development and Human Development Index

In daily language, in newspapers and in blogs, and even in academic writing, there is a tendency to equate “development” with “economic growth”.  Accordingly the size of a country’s GDP is usually considered to be an index of its level of development. Nonetheless, it would be quite misleading to reduce a complex issue like development to simply GDP. The idea of development, in addition to economic dimensions, should encompass social, political, cultural and ecological dimensions.

Even if a country is experiencing record levels of GDP growth, if it suffers from income inequality, unhealthy living conditions, ecological degradations, limitations in educational opportunities, democratic deficit, gender inequality, sexism, ethnic discrimination, racism and other such problems, one must question whether or not this country is really developed. Economic growth may be an important factor (yet one with possible contradictory outcomes) that leads to development but it cannot be the sole criteria. For instance, To put it differently, high growth rates sometimes may be achieved at the expense of social and ecological problems and conflicts it generates.

Nobel (Economics) Laureate (1998) Amartya Sen, in articulating a novel theory of human development, emphasized this key point. According to Sen, development should best be understood as the development of the capabilities of human beings -that is not only what they are but also what they can be. For instance, it is not enough to have the nominal right to elect public officers and to be elected to public offices; one should also have confidence in the process of political representation or, at a more practical level, one should have the means to access to the polls safely during the elections. Similarly, in addition to the actual number of schools in a country, their accessibility by the public is equally important. Or, in a society where the justice system fails to function properly and the trust in the juridical system wanes, the actual number of court houses means very little.

Human Development Theory has led Sen and Mahbub ul Haq to create a composite indicator to facilitate comparing the levels of development of different countries: Human Development Index (HDI). United Nations Development Program (UNDP) calculates HDI values and its variants (e.g., gender inequality, multi-dimensional poverty) for all the countries of the World and prepares annual reports. In this entry we focus on Turkey’s HDI and compare it with a selected number of countries.

Table 1 shows that Turkey’s HDI ranking is above the average of Low Human Development countries and below the average of High Development countries. According to the latest UNDP report (2013), Turkey listed fifth from the last among 47 High Human Development countries. Turkey ranks 90th among 187 countries.

In a more detailed look, we compare HDI scores of Turkey with other MINT countries, its two neighbors, Iran to the East and Greece to the West and averages for Europe and the OECD countries. Among the MINT countries Turkey fares better than Indonesia and Nigeria but worse than Mexico. On the other hand, while Iran is only slightly above (and improved more in recent years); Greece is significantly above, closer to the European and the OECD averages. Despite its 30 years long development, Turkey was not able to score enough to catch up with European and the OECD averages.

Table 1

Table 2 


Data is downloaded from the website of United Nations Development Programme.

Measure: “Human Development Index (HDI) value”

For comparative tables, please see the “2013 Human Development Report”.

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