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UNDP Report calls for attention to new generation of inequalities on human development

ADDIS ABABA: New inequalities are emerging though African countries have made significant strides in advancing human development, gaining ground on the key indicators of primary education and health, says a new report by the UN Development Program (UNDP).

Launched on Tuesday under the theme, “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st century,” the 2019 Human Development Report (HDP) argues that inequality is not beyond solutions.

Despite unprecedented progress against poverty, hunger and disease, many societies are not working as they should, and the connecting thread is inequality, the Report says.

The report, which pioneers a more precise way to measure countries’ socioeconomic progress, notes that life expectancy has increased by more than 11 years between the years 1990 and 2018.

However, new inequalities are becoming more pronounced particularly around tertiary education, seismic effects of technology and the climate crisis making it harder for those already behind to catch up.

The HDI measures long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development; a long and healthy life, access to knowledge as well as a decent of living.

Thinking beyond income, the report puts emphasis on early childhood and lifelong investment including investing in young children’s learning, health, and nutrition to tackle inequality.

Presenting the report’s key messages in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Turhan Saleh, UNDP Ethiopia Resident Representative, emphasized on the theme of the report that countries should go beyond income and averages among others to deal with inequalities.

“It is beyond income. It is not just income; income and wealth are important measures of inequality; but you have to look at for example of health, of education, of dignity and respect for human rights. So, inequality is not merely about income. There are many other dimensions to inequality. So, it is about beyond income,” Saleh has noted.

The new report recommends investments in policies that enhance productivity, fair taxation and improved public spending.

It also highlights how averages often hid what is really going on in society and the need for much more detailed information to tackle inequality effectively and to address multiple dimensions of poverty.

Looking beyond today, the report asks how inequality may change in future, looking particularly at two seismic shifts that will shift life up to the 22nd century: the climate change and technological transformation.

“You have to look at policies; not only leaving no one behind; but bring everybody together. Please remember these messages, inequality is more than income; just focusing on income, you will miss a lot. Second, it is beyond averages, not a single dimension; we have to look beyond averages to look at inequality; we have to look inequality not just today as it evolves over time.

So, we don’t do that, we will miss a lot; policies will be inappropriate; we will not have impact on inequality; we will hurt our societies; we will hold development back,” the UNDP Ethiopia Resident Representative has said.

It sparks fresh debate and discourse on what inequality looks like and to have a deeper understanding of how inequality will change given the economic, social, and environmental transformations that are unfolding globally, but beyond that, the policy options needed to effectively tackle it.

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