Despite global progress in tackling poverty, hunger and disease, a ‘new generation of inequalities’ indicates that many societies are not working as they should and Nepal is not an exception, according to a new human development report released on Tuesday.
The old inequalities were based on access to health services and education whereas the new generation of inequalities is based on technology, education and the climate, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report.
“Previously, we talked about wealth as a major driver for inequality. Now, countries like Nepal are in another inequality trap and that concerns technology and education,” Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada said at the launch of the report.
This year, Nepal moved up two spots to rank 147 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index, according to the report. It shares the rank with Kenya.
While South Asia was the fastest-growing region, with 46 percent growth, in the 1990-2018 period, Nepal’s human development index rose from 0.380 to 0.579, an increase of 52.6 percent. This reflects that, on average, people are living longer, are more educated and have greater incomes.
For example, between 1990 and 2018, Nepal’s life expectancy at birth increased by 16.1 years to 70.5 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.8 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.7 years. Nepal’s Gross National Income per capita increased by about 130.5 percent between 1990 ($1,192) and 2018 ($2,748).
It, however, is still below the average value of 0.634 for countries in the medium human development group and below the average of 0.642 for countries in South Asia. Nepal lags behind most South Asian countries, ranking above Pakistan (152) and Afghanistan (170).
The report, which ranks countries on their average achievement in key dimensions of human development, like life expectancy, education and per capita income, shows that Nepal trails behind Sri Lanka (71), the Maldives (104), India (129), Bhutan (134) and Bangladesh (135).
Despite progress in most human development indicators, the report shows that Nepal has a poor Gender Inequality Index with a value of 0.476, ranking it 115 out of 162 countries.
“The gender equality gap is so huge that if we started working to reducing the gap now, it will take us 202 years,” Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme, said at the report launch. “There are also questions about whether the artificial intelligence era will further increase inequality. Yes, but the choice is in our hands.”
In Nepal, 33.5 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, but just 29 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education, compared to 44.2 percent of males. According to the report, for every 100,000 live births, 258 women die from pregnancy-related causes. Female participation in the labour market is 81.7 percent, compared to 84.4 for men.
Nepal’s Human Development Index at 0.579 is a modest improvement, but when the value is discounted for inequality, the index falls to 0.430, a loss of 25.8 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the human development index dimension indices, the report said.
According to the report, in Nepal, 34 percent of the population (9.96 million people) is multidimensionally poor while an additional 22.3 percent is classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty (6.54 million people).
Multidimensional poverty takes into account the various deprivations experienced by poor people in their daily lives—such as poor health and living standards, lack of education and living in areas that are environmentally hazardous, among others.