Norway, Australia and the Netherlands came in at the top of the rankings of this year’s newly released Index (HDI) rankings, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Niger and Burundi came in at the bottom.
The HDI combines measures of life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. This year the HDI measured 187 countries and territories.
The HDI is adjusted for economic inequality. According to Milorad Kovacevic, chief statistician for the Human Development Report, “The inequality-adjusted Human Development Index helps us assess better the levels of development for all segments of society, rather than for just the mythical ‘average’ person.”
“We consider health and education distribution to be just as important in this equation as income, and the data show great inequities in many countries.”
The 2011 Human Development Report, 'Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All', notes that income distribution has worsened in most of the world. According to the report, Latin America has the largest income inequality, although it is more equitable than sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia in life expectancy and education.
Countries at the bottom of the list suffer from inadequate incomes, limited schooling opportunities and low life expectancy rates due to preventable diseases such as malaria and AIDS.
The report stresses that a lot of the problems encountered by countries with low rankings are worsened by armed conflicts and its devastating consequences. In the DRC, the country with the lowest ranking, more than three million people died from warfare and conflict related illnesses.
The DRC also ranks as one of the least equitable countries in the 2011 Gender Inequality Index (GII), which shows rankings of gender equality based on a composite index of reproductive health, years of schooling, parliamentary representation, and participation in the labour market.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) examines factors at the family level—such as access to clean water, cooking fuel, health services, basic household goods and home construction standards—that together provide a fuller portrait of poverty than income measurements alone. The 10 poorest nations as measured by the MPI can all be found in sub-Saharan Africa.