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The Gap of Human Development Index in ASEAN Countries

Human Development Report 2019 said, in 2018, three ASEAN countries are categorized as Very High on Human Development which consisted of Singapore (9), Brunei Darussalam (43), and Malaysia (61). This would certainly be a proud achievement for ASEAN. But, three countries with the lowest HDI ratings in ASEAN, which consisted of Laos (140), Myanmar (145), and Cambodia (146) almost in the category of Low Human Development Index. This shows the existence of the Human Development Index (HDI) gap in ASEAN countries.

ASEAN Human Development Index

Human Development Index (HDI) has three dimensions used as a basis for calculation:

  1. Knowledge is calculated from school expectations and the average length of school (Education)
  2. Longevity and healthy life as measured by Life Expectancy at Birth
  3. The standard of living dimension is measured by Gross National Income per capita (GNI per capita)

1. Education

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) said Singapore ranked 2 out of 78 countries as the best education system in the world with points for Reading (549), Mathematics (569), and Science (551). According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Singapore has an average school year of 11.5 years. This positive trend is followed by other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam with an average of each school year 10.2 years, 9.1 years, 7.7 years, 8.0 years, and 8.2 years. But there are gaps compared to Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia, which have an average school year of 5.2 years, 5.0 years, and 4.8 years. This should be a big concern for ASEAN and 3 countries (Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia) to improve their education standards.

2. Life Expectancy at Birth

There are still ASEAN countries that have an average life expectancy below global standards (72.6 years), which consisted of Indonesia (71.5), Philippines (71.1), Laos (67.6), Cambodia (69.6), and Myanmar (66.9). The other five ASEAN countries (Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam) have an average life expectancy above global standards. The country with the highest life expectancy in ASEAN is Singapore, which is 83.8 years. Living standards, better health services make the life expectancy of people in the Lion Country above other countries in Southeast Asia. Singapore at the global level life expectancy gets the third rank in the world below Hong Kong and Japan.

3. GNI per capita

Based on UNDP, the living standard is measured by Gross National Income per capita. Based on the World Bank, Indonesia is the country with the largest economy in the Southeast Asia (ASEAN) region. However, due to its large population, Indonesia’s GNI per capita ($ 11,256) is lower than Singapore ($ 83,793), Brunei Darussalam ($ 76,389), Malaysia ($ 27,227), and Thailand ($ 16,129). While Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia have GNI per capita each of $9,540; $6,317; $6,220; $5,764; and $3,597. This shows the high gap of GNI per capita in each ASEAN country.

A gap in the Human Development Index in ASEAN can also be seen in the average HDI trend (2010-2018). Singapore as a top of the ASEAN Human Development Index has an average value of 0.906. This distance is a big gap in the HDI calculation when compared to Cambodia that has an average value of 0.532.

ASEAN countries have many similarities, including language, culture, demography, nature, race, flora and fauna, and many more. We should join hands in every field in advancing ASEAN, such as education, health, and food.

ASEAN must see Europe. Almost all European countries are developed countries because of solid cooperation, strict regulations, and strong trade. But can ASEAN look like Europe? The answer is absolute. The great potential of natural resources is the capital to achieve this dream. In addition, together we must be able to develop the potential of quality human resources to manage these natural resources for our better ASEAN.

Written By

Arfanza Satria, AYO Ambassador

UNDP – Human Development Report
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

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