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51. COVID-19 and Human Development Crisis

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The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) publishes every year the Human Development Index (HDI), a statistic composite index which combines life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators,. On May 20, 2020, the UNDP warned about the potential decline in HDI this year for the first time in 30 years since the concept was introduced in 1990. The COVID-19 has caused a human development crisis that had not been experienced in the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09 by damaging the three aspects of health, education and income.

COVID-19’s global death toll has exceeded 300,000 people, and per capita income is expected to fall by 4% globally. Effective school leave, as a percentage of primary school year-age children adjusted for the number of children without internet access due to school closure, indicates that 60% of children are deprived of their educational opportunities, the trends not seen since the 1980s. It shows that there is a crisis that we have never experienced. Taken together, these impacts are record-breaking events that overturn human development progress. And it doesn't take into account the issue of gender inequality.

COVID-19 highlights the disparity problem like a magnifying glass. The decline in human development indicators is expected to be more severe in developing countries, which are less capable of responding to the socio-economic impacts of pandemics than in developed countries. In terms of education, due to school closure and disparity in access to online education, the effective absence rate for primary school enrolled children is 20% in countries with high human development indicators and 86% in countries with low human development indicators. 

On the other hand, it is possible to reduce the educational gap by equalizing Internet access. Decisive interventions contribute to mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A equity-focused approach is also cost effective. It is estimated that the gap in internet access in low- and middle-income countries can be improved with about 1% of the financial measures taken as COVID-19 countermeasures this time.

A green, gender-equal, good governance approach to COVID-19 measures is a socio-economic response that is essential for the realization of a "new normal". In response to this complex crisis, UNDP recommends five things: (1) protecting health systems and services, (2) ramping up social protection, (3) protecting jobs, small- and medium-sized businesses and informal sector workers; (4) making macroeconomic policies work for everyone; and (5) promoting peace, good governance and trust to build social cohesion.



UNDP COVID-19: Human development on course to decline this year for the first time since 1990 http://hdr.undp.org/en/hdp-covid


Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Research Strategy Office)