The Caribbean HDR


The most recent United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Report (HDR) for the Caribbean, which was launched in Barbados last week, has provided some very useful data, analyses and recommendations to guide regional governments and policymakers as they design and implement programmes aimed at ensuring citizens lead more productive and happy lives.

The Caribbean HDR titled “Multidimensional Progress: human resilience beyond income” highlights the need to rethink the methods for ranking development in the region’s countries that go beyond per capita income, economic growth rates and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to a summary provided by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the launch of the report, said that the inspiration for this latest HRD comes from the strong demands of Caribbean leaders for “more comprehensive metrics for assessing development, and for a more nuanced examination of the meaning of ‘graduation,’ recognising that income per capita does not reflect the vulnerabilities, development needs and challenges of middle-income countries.”

This year, the HDR tailored specifically for the Caribbean, has called on governments, the private sector and other stakeholders, “to rethink the region’s progress along multidimensional lines, inspired by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

In line with the SDGs, the report stresses that, “on the one hand it is crucial to invest in people, environment, sustainable and affordable energy, institutional efficiency, stability and security as these are key factors to boost economic growth. On the other hand, it is essential to ensure that economic growth is inclusive, empowers people, leaves no one behind, and is not achieved at the expense of the environment”.

The report also focuses on several groups and their “vulnerabilities”, which accumulate over a life cycle hindering people’s capacity to fulfil their potential and also to leave poverty behind. It points to the fact that women are disadvantaged in the labour market, with lower level and lower paying jobs than men in the Caribbean.

It notes that although women head nearly half of the Caribbean households, the participation of women in senior managerial jobs is still limited to less than one quarter of these jobs in all researched Caribbean countries, with the exceptions of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados.

Additionally, the report points to the fact that youth unemployment is a common challenge for both women and men. Youth unemployment rates range between 18 per cent and 47 per cent except in Trinidad and Tobago where it is 10 per cent, according to the report.

In relation to older persons, the report notes that on average, the Caribbean has a higher rate of population 65 years old and above, and is ageing faster than the Latin America region. It is estimated that by 2025, 11.4 per cent of the Caribbean population will be 65 years or above. It explains that older women are more at risk of poverty and chronic diseases than older men (whose life expectancy is lower and who are less likely to access healthcare and detect disease especially at earlier stages), but benefit more from family support.

Pension schemes, especially non-contributory ones, are often inefficient and inadequate both in coverage and value.

According to the HDR, “factors that have pushed people out of poverty in the Caribbean are different from those that prevent them from falling back.”

In the past decade, labour markets and education were the biggest engines behind exiting poverty. However, the report argues that it is essential that a new generation of public policies strengthen the four factors that prevent setbacks: social protection, care systems (particularly for children and older persons), physical and financial assets (such as owning a car, a home, savings or bank accounts that act as ‘cushions’ when crisis hit), and labour skills.

This is especially important during economic slowdowns.

While some of these analyses and recommendations are not new, they serve as a reminder to regional governments and policymakers of the need to keep the issues that affect citizens on top of the development agenda.