UN’s Human Development Index ranks Qatar at 31
The recently announced United Nations Human Development Index (UNHDI) reveals that Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been ranked in the ‘very high’ category of the Index. Qatar, which ranked 31st out of 187 countries, was the highest ranking of the Arab states.
The UNHDI is one of the many data sources used by the Learning Curve, a comprehensive analysis of education systems put together by Pearson and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The Index measures a country’s level of human development against three basic dimensions: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and standard of living.
Commenting on whether these yardsticks are enough in measuring human development in a country, Aakash Jayaprakash, human rights activist, told The Edge that one of the biggest criticisms of this UN ranking system is the fact that the data is not always available or reliable. He added, “It is important to highlight that the 2013 report did not include Qatar’s data on income inequality adjustment. Adjusting for inequality within a society gives a more accurate indicator of the country’s performance.”
Jayaprakash continued, “When ranking systems like these are based solely on quantitative data, it limits the understanding of a country’s history. For instance, countries that have defeated colonialism consistently seem to be on lower rankings, and about 200 years of colonial rule and economic theft do not have a place in understanding a country’s human development index. While these rankings are definitely helpful to understand a country, one must be careful while interpreting them and not look at these indices in isolation.”
Access to knowledge under the Index is measured by the mean number of years of education among the adult population, which is the average number of years of education received in a lifetime by people 25 years or older, and the expected years a child of school entry age can expect to receive.
Karim Daoud, managing director of Pearson’s Middle East Hub, said that the commendable performance of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar in the 2014 Index, as in recent years, is in part due to the commitment seen in these countries to embedding meaningful education reform.
Commenting on Qatar’s 2014 rankings, Jayaprakash is of the view that with its vast energy reserves and a small citizen population, the country is able to ensure a high standard of living for its citizens. He added, “With the leadership’s ambitious plans for the country, Qatar is able to achieve much more than its neighbours in the Arab world.” However, he warned, such rankings must be viewed through a critical lens, and one should better understand the data gathering process, adding, “The fact remains that low-income workers, and other professionals in Qatar have a vastly different experience in the country, than what the UNHDI rankings would indicate.”