Human Development on Course to Decline for the First Time Since 1990

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Human Development on Course to Decline for the First Time Since 1990

The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to undo the three decades of gains made in global human development - which can be measured as a combination of the world’s education, health and living standards – in 2020 for the first time since the introduction of the concept in 190, a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report has warned. In its 2020 Human Development Perspectives titled COVID-19 and Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery, the UN body has said that declines in fundamental areas of human development are being felt across most countries - rich and poor - in every region. According to the report, the global per capita income this year is expected to fall by four percent. With closure of schools, UNDP estimates that “effective out-of-school rate”—the percentage of primary school-age children, adjusted to reflect those without internet access— 60 percent of children are not getting an education, leading to global levels not seen since the 1980s.

 “The world has seen many crises over the past 30 years, including the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09. Each has hit human development hard but, overall, development gains accrued globally year-on-year. COVID-19 – with its triple hit to health, education, and income – may change this trend,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. According to the report, the combined impact of these shocks could signify the largest reversal in human development on record. “This is not counting other significant effects, for instance, in the progress towards gender equality. The negative impacts on women and girls span economic - earning and saving less and greater job insecurity - reproductive health, unpaid care work and gender-based violence,” the report reads.  

According to UNDP, the drop in human development is expected to be much higher in developing countries that are less able to cope with the pandemic’s social and economic fallout than richer nations. The report stressed on the need for determined, equity-focused interventions to help economies and societies rally, mitigating the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Implementing equity-focused approaches would be affordable. For instance, closing the gap in access to the internet for low- and middle-income countries is estimated to cost just one per cent of the extraordinary fiscal support packages the world has so far committed to respond to COVID-19,” the report stated.

UNDP has recommended five priority steps to tackle the complexity of this crisis: protecting health systems and services; ramping up social protection; protecting jobs, small- and medium-sized businesses and informal sector workers; making macroeconomic policies work for everyone; and promoting peace, good governance and trust to build social cohesion.

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