Human Development Report 2019

Dec 12, 2019

About the report: Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, Beyond Today

This report looks at inequalities in human development with a new lens. It assesses what inequalities are becoming important today, how they differ around the world and among population groups, and how they are changing. People’s discontent with inequality is linked to perceptions of unfairness in their societies. The depth of inequality must be assessed beyond income, beyond averages (and summary measures of inequality) and beyond today.

Beyond income: Any comprehensive assessment of inequality must consider income and wealth. But it must also go beyond dollars and rupees to understand differences in other aspects of human development and the processes that lead to them. There is economic inequality, of course, but there are also inequalities in key elements of human development such as health, education, dignity and respect for human rights. And these might not be revealed by considering income and wealth inequality alone.

Beyond averages: Too often the debate about inequality is oversimplified, relying on summary measures of inequality and incomplete data that provide a partial—sometimes misleading—picture, both in the sorts of inequality to consider and the people affected. The analysis must go beyond averages that collapse information on distribution to a single number and look at the ways inequality plays out across an entire population, in different places and over time. For every aspect of human development, what matters is the entire inequality gradient (the differences in achievements across the population according to different socioeconomic characteristics).

Beyond today: Much analysis focuses on the past or on the here and now. But a changing world requires considering what will shape inequality in the future. Existing—and new—forms of inequality will interact with major social, economic and environmental forces to determine the lives of today’s young people and their children. Two seismic shifts will shape the 21st century: Climate change and technological transformations. The climate crisis is already hitting the poorest hardest, while technological advances such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can leave behind entire groups of people, even countries—creating the spectre of an uncertain future under these shifts.

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