Analysis: South Africa’s Performance in UNDP Human Development Report 2015

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2015 Human Development Index

  • Presents the 2014 Human Development Index (HDI – values and ranks) for 188 countries and UN-recognized territories.
  • South Africa ranks 116th out of 188. With an HDI value of 0.666 for 2014, South Africa is in the medium human development category.
  • Steady increase in HDI value since 1990, moving up 7.2% from 0.621 in 1990 to 0.666 in 2014.
  • South Africans today enjoy a longer, healthier life, have better access to education and a more decent living standard.

Table: SA’s HDI trends based on consistent time series data and new goalposts

 

2010

(2011 HDR)

2011

2012

(2013 HDR)

2013

(2014 HDR)

2014

(*2015 HDR)

Rank

123 (/187)

123 (/187)

121 (/186)

118 (/187)

116[1](/188)

HDI Value

0.643

0.651

0.659

0.663

+0.666

Life expectancy at birth

54.5

55.5

56.3

56.9

+57.4

Expected years of schooling

13.5

13.5

13.6

13.6

+13.6

Mean years of schooling

9.6

9.7

9.9

9.9

+9.9

GNI per capita (2011 PPP$)

11,833

11,977

12,041

12,134

+12,122

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Background

The 2015 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) focuses on the instrinsic relationship between work and human development. The Report defines work not only as employment, but as a means to contribute to the public good, reduce inequality, secure livelihoods and empower individuals.

The 2015 HDR presents the 2014 Human Development Index (HDI – values and ranks) for 188 countries and UN-recognized territories.

South Africa ranks 116th out of 188. With an HDI value of 0.666 for 2014, SA is in the medium human development category.

As noted in previous years, the country has seen a steady increase in its HDI value since 1990, moving up 7.2% from 0.621 in 1990 to 0.666 in 2014.

The National Development Plan (NDP) identifies human development as a critical part of inclusive growth and acknowledges its inadequate improvement in relation to education, health and safety. South Africa has a good story developing, indicated by the steady improvement of its Human Development Index (HDI) score over the last years.

Table 1 below shows the comparability across years for South Africa, presenting trends using consistent data.[i]

Table 1: Trends in South Africa’s HDI, 1990–2014

Human Development Index (HDI)

HDI rank

Average annual HDI growth

HDI rank

Country

Value

Change

(%)

1990

2000

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2013

2009–
2014

1990–
2000

2000–
2010

2010–
2014

1990–
2014

116

South Africa

0,621

0,632

0,643

0,651

0,659

0,663

0,666

117

4

0,17

0,18

0,87

0,29

Table 1 illustrates, among others, SA’s HDI average annual value increase of approximately 0.29% from 1990 to 2014. The rank is shared with El Salvador and Viet Nam.

South Africa has made several gradual, yet significant strides over the past few years not only in its overall HDI ranking as mentioned above, but also in other areas. Between 2010 and 2014, Life Expectancy at Birth increased by 2.9 years; Expected Years of Schooling increased by 0.1 years[i] and Mean Years of Schooling increased by 0,3 years. Gross National Income (GNI) per capita also increased by 11.8% in this same period (See Table 2 below)

Table 2: SA’s HDI trends based on consistent time series data and new goalposts
 

 

2010

(2011 HDR)

2011

2012

(2013 HDR)

2013

(2014 HDR)

2014

(*2015 HDR)

Rank

123 (/187)

123 (/187)

121 (/186)

118 (/187)

116[i](/188)

HDI Value

0.643

0.651

0.659

0.663

0.666 é

Life expectancy at birth

54.5

55.5

56.3

56.9

57.4 é

Expected years of schooling

13.5

13.5

13.6

13.6

13.6 é

Mean years of schooling

9.6

9.7

9.9

9.9

9.9 é

GNI per capita (2011 PPP$)

11,833

11,977

12,041

12,134

12,122 é

Source: 2015 HDR 

2. South Africa’s Progress Relative to Other Developing Countries

Compared to other countries in the medium human development category, SA’s HDI of 0.666 is above average (0.63). The country’s performance is even more impressive when compared to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, which has an average HDI score of 0.518.

Based on population size, SA is closest to Namibia and Congo, which have HDIs ranked 126th and 136th, respectively.

Table 3: SA’s HDI indicators for 2014 relative to selected countries & groups

HDI rank

Country

HDI value

Life expectancy at birth

Expected years of schooling

Mean years of schooling

GNI per capita

(PPP US$)

63

Mauritius

0.777

74.4

15.6

8.5

$ 17,470

108

Egypt

0.690

71.1

13.5

6.6

$ 10,512

116

South Africa

0.666

57.4

13.6

9.9

$ 12,122

126

Namibia

0.628

64.8

11.3

6.2

$ 9,418

136

Congo

0.591

62.3

11.1

6.1

$ 6,012

140

Ghana

0.579

61.4

11.5

7.0

$ 3,852

145

Kenya

0.548

61.6

11.0

6.3

$ 2,762

152

Nigeria

0.514

52.8

9.0

5.9

$ 5,341

Sub-Saharan Africa

0.518

58.5

9.6

5.2

$ 3,363

Medium HDI

0.630

68.6

11.8

6.2

$ 6,353

Source: Briefing Notes for countries on the 2015 Human Development Report  

Table 3 shows that South Africa performs fairly well compared to other big players on the continent, e.g. Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, outranking all three. That said, Mauritius has made significant strides in its development. Starting from a slightly lower HDI score than South Africa in 1990 (0.619), the country has progressed significantly to become the highest ranking African country on the Index.

Table 4: SA’s HDI indicators relative to BRICS

Rank

Country

HDI value

Life expectancy

at birth

Expected Years of Schooling

Mean Years of Schooling

GNI per capita

(PPP US$)

50

Russian Federation

0.798

70.1

14.7

12.0

$ 22.617

75

Brazil

0.755

74.5

15.2

7.7

$ 15,175

90

China

0.727

75.8

13.1

7.5

$ 12,547

116

South Africa

0.666

57.4

13.6

9.9

$ 12,122

130

India

0.609

68.0

11.7

5.4

$ 5,497

Source: Briefing Notes for countries on the 2015 Human Development Report

The table above indicates South Africa performs strongly on several indicators, namely the Mean Years of Schooling (coming second only to Russia) and its GNI (it comes in a close third to Russia and China). Although the country has performed weakly in the Rank indicator when compared with its BRIC counterparts, this should not deflect from its overall improvements in score over the past five years.

3Conclusion

As in the previous HDR, South Africa only has 1.3% of the total population living in severe poverty. Figures for Namibia and Congo, identified as its most “comparable” African counterparts, are much higher, with 13.4% and 12.4% of the population living in severe poverty, attesting to the fact that South Africans today enjoy a longer, healthier life, have better access to education and a more decent living standard.

 

 

 

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Contacts

Dr Petrus de Kock – General Manager Research – petrusd@brandsouthafrica.com

Dr Judy Smith-Höhn- Research Manager – judys@brandsouthafrica.com

Ms Leigh-Gail Petersen – Researcher – leigh@brandsouthafrica.com


Endnotes:

[i] Note that because national and international agencies continually improve their data series, the data — including the HDI values and ranks — presented in the Human Development Report are not comparable to those published in earlier editions.

[ii] The improvements in the Schooling categories are particularly impressive when considering the longer term improvements in this area. Between 1980 and 2014, Expected Years of Schooling increased by 2.2 years and Mean Years of Schooling by 5 years.

[iii] There is an inconsistency with the ranking on the UNDP website. The pdf reports rank SA at 116, as does the online HDI ranking overview, while a click on the link to South Africa country website overview puts SA at 117th. Brand SA has contacted UNDP to clarify.