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Gender inequality: South Asian countries rank low

Mar 15, 2013

Despite the latest Human Development Report hailing the rise of the South, the South Asian nations rank low on the Human Development Index.

The latest Human Development Report (HDR) 2013 focuses on the countries from the South, and as the report says, “The rise of the South is fundamentally the story of the fast-paced transformation of the developing world and its profound impact on diverse facets of human development.”

The HDR 2013 in extreme detail talks about the obvious correlation between the South’s burgeoning growth and the relationship change between the North and South this brings about. The report puts the economic and social climate right now as “a tale of two worlds” where the North and the South live in an inter-connected world. This year’s report concentrates on the South due to the growing clout of the BRICS nations in terms of sheer economic and political say. It is expected that by the year 2020 China, Brazil and India will surpass production of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, UK and the US.

“Although most developing countries have done well, a large number of countries have done particularly well—in what can be called the “rise of the South”. Some of the largest countries have made rapid advances, notably Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey. But there has also been substantial progress in smaller economies, such as Bangladesh, Chile, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and Tunisia.” says the report. In many ways, the social implications of this economic growth is dealt with in different facets like the state of health, education, poverty inequality in these countries. With emerging markets consumption all set to rise to $ 30 trillion and share in world output set to rise from 33 per cent to 45 per cent, the report paints an extremely bright picture that contains an ambitious South making it big.

There has hardly been a lot of change in the rankings of the HDI this year. India is at a 136 slipping from its equally grim 134 in 2011. Maldives and Sri Lanka are ranked higher than India being at 104 and 92 respectively. Afghanistan is at 175, Pakistan at 146 and Nepal at 157. Collectively, the South Asian countries have not changed much in terms of their positions or their indexes.

On the Gender Inequality index though India fares worst among the South Asian nations, barring usual suspect Afghanistan. Other countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan, Maldives, all fare well with ranks of 75, 80, 92, and 64 respectively. This ties in with the recent spate of violence on women which India has been seeing for quite some time.

But what about social indicators like health and education? In South Asia, 65 per cent indicated satisfaction with the state of health in their countries. Separately, Sri Lanka had the highest number of its population satisfied with the state of health at 83 per cent while Pakistan was at an average 41 per cent. In terms of education, the report strongly acknowledged the need to educate women, so that whole families become educated leading to not only lesser child mortality rates but obvious economic prosperity for people. The report advocates two scenarios for betterment of education policies for the years 2010-2050. It talks of a base case scenario, in which current education trends continue, and a fast track scenario in which the countries with the lowest initial levels embrace ambitious education targets. Overall, Latin America has overall seen income inequality fall since 2000 but still has rampant unequal distribution of all regions. Sub-Saharan Africa has the most inequality in health, and South Asia in education. In that sense, even though the South seems to be doing extremely well economically, there is need for work on a number of aspects that contribute to human development indicators.

All in all, though the Human Development Report 2013 paints a glorious picture in terms of economic growth for the South. But ironically, the usual suspects from the North are the top ten of the HDI. Countries like Norway, Australia, Sweden, Ireland. The South needs to work on many more structural changes to ensure aspects like gender inequality, equity, poverty. The report advocates for a South-South cooperation to ensure that there is actual growth in all the nations.

To see OneWorld South Asia's interview with Khalid Malik, Director of the Human Development Report Office, UN, click here.

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