Bhutan Ranked 134 Out Of 189 Countries In Human Development Index Report 2019


Last year, the country also held the same rank at the 134th position.

(Source: Facebook/zorigchosum)


By Samten Dolkar BBS

Bhutan is ranked 134 among 189 countries and territories in the latest Human Development Index (HDI) report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Last year, the country also held the same rank at the 134th position.

While the Global launch of the HDI took place on 9 December, in Bhutan, the report was released on 12 December at the Royal University of Bhutan’s Hall by the United Nations Development Programme.

About the Human Development Index and its focus this year

Almost 30 years since its inception, the Human Development Report remains a powerful voice, it is a composite index measuring average achievements in three basic dimensions such as health, education and income.

Photo: Facebook/UNDP Bhutan


This year’s report deals with inequalities in the 21st Century and how they can weaken social cohesion and economic growth.

Moreover, it has the potential to break people’s trust in the government, institutions and amongst each other. When taken to extremes, it can even lead to protests in the streets.

Report highlights ‘beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today’

By looking ‘beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today’, the report presents analysis, ideas and policy options to tackle inequality's drivers.

The HDI report therefore recognises that many inequalities are the symptoms of an unfair system rather than the cause.

As with most entrenched development challenges, there is no easy solution out of inequality in society. For a start, reversing inequality requires interventions from early childhood to old age and new thinking - particularly in the face of sweeping technological change and the ongoing climate crisis.


 Source: Youtube/HDR UNDP


According to the HDI report of 2018, Bhutan experienced a loss of 27.1 per cent due to inequality in those HDI indicators.

The country’s HDI value for 2018 was 0.617.  Bhutan, therefore, has been classified under the Middle Human Development Category.

As per the report, the life expectancy at birth has increased to 71.5 this year compared to 71.1 in 2017. The expected years of schooling, however, is the same in both the years at 12.1 per cent.

According to the UNDP, the purpose of ranking is to initiate a debate rather than a competition.

“Creating a space for dialogue is more meaningful than focusing on the ranking,” said Azusa Kubota, the Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan.

This year, the new UNDP publication better informs the existing work done to reduce inequality by going ‘beyond income, beyond averages and beyond today’.

Tackling inequality in Bhutan

By looking at ‘beyond today’, the 2019 Human Development Report articulates the rise of a new generation of inequalities.

“Equality often talks about in terms of people and income, how much they are earning in comparison to your neighbour but inequality goes much beyond the income. It can be health, education, dignity or the pursuits of human rights. The world is changing so fast,” said Azusa Kubota.


Photo: Facebook/UNDP Bhutan


Other than going beyond primary services such as health, education and income, she suggested that the government should also prevent emerging inequality caused by climate change and technological advancement.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, who attended the event said that the concepts of Gross National Happiness can be applied to policies to solve these emerging inequalities.

“We are given more confidence in doing the role we have been doing now. In Bhutan, we may not be scoring high in this report but we must understand that our basis is very strong. Under the leadership of our kings, we all always have a good place on this. People living in the margins of society are taken care of by the royal kidu programme and the principles of GNH is really beyond income, is really beyond average and I would say is beyond today.”

The launch also saw a panel discussion concerning the factors which are driving inequality in Bhutan and what must be done in order to narrow the gap.

Globally, Norway, Switzerland and Ireland led the ranking while Niger, the Central African Republic, Chad and South Sudan scored the lowest in the HDI’s measurement of national achievements in the sectors of health, education and income.


This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

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