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UNDP, October 6, 2009

Factsheet of Human Development Report 2009: Afghanistan ranked 181 out of 182 countries

The HDI measures average achievements in a country, but it does not incorporate the degree of gender imbalance in these achievements.

Cartoon by Peter Brookes
Cartoon by Peter Brookes published by The Times.(NOTE: cartoon was included by RAWA, it is not part of the UNDP report.)

Each year since 1990 the Human Development Report has published the human development index (HDI) which looks beyond GDP to a broader definition of well-being. The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and gross enrolment in education) and having a decent standard of living (measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income). The index is not in any sense a comprehensive measure of human development. It does not, for example, include important indicators such as gender or income inequality nor more difficult to measure concepts like respect for human rights and political freedoms. What it does provide is a broadened prism for viewing human progress and the complex relationship between income and well-being.

Of the components of the HDI, only income and gross enrolment are somewhat responsive to short term policy changes. For that reason, it is important to examine changes in the human development index over time. The human development index trends tell an important story in that respect. HDI scores in all regions have increased progressively over the years (Figure 1) although all have experienced periods of slower growth or even reversals.

Figure 1: HDI Trends

HDI Trends - Afghanistan

This year's HDI, which refers to 2007, highlights the very large gaps in well-being and life chances that continue to divide our increasingly interconnected world. The HDI for Afghanistan is 0.352, which gives the country a rank of 181st out of 182 countries with data (Table 1).

Table 1: Afghanistan’s human development index 2007
HDI valueLife expectancy at birth
Adult literacy rate
(% ages 15 and above)
Combined gross enrolment ratio
GDP per capita
1. Norway (0.971)1. Japan (82.7)1. Georgia (100.0)1. Australia (114.2)1. Liechtenstein (85,382)
179. Central African Republic (0.369)174. Lesotho (44.9)148. Burkina Faso (28.7)154. Bangladesh (52.1)162. Mali (1,083)
180. Sierra Leone (0.365)175. Zambia (44.5)149. Niger (28.7)155. Mauritania (50.6)163. Uganda (1,059)
181. Afghanistan (0.352)176. Afghanistan (43.6)150. Afghanistan (28.0)156. Afghanistan (50.1)164. Afghanistan (1,054)
182. Niger (0.340)151. Mali (26.2)157. Solomon Islands (49.7)165. Nepal (1,049)
158. Guinea (49.3)166. Madagascar (932)
177. Djibouti (25.5)181. Congo (Democratic Republic of the) (298)

By looking at some of the most fundamental aspects of people’s lives and opportunities the HDI provides a much more complete picture of a country's development than other indicators, such as GDP per capita. Figure 2 illustrates that countries on the same level of HDI can have very different levels of income or that countries with similar levels of income can have very different HDIs.

Figure 2: The human development index gives a more complete picture than income

Afghanistan, HDI

Human poverty: focusing on the most deprived in multiple dimensions of poverty

The HDI measures the average progress of a country in human development. The Human Poverty Index (HPI-1), focuses on the proportion of people below certain threshold levels in each of the dimensions of the human development index - living a long and healthy life, having access to education, and a decent standard of living. By looking beyond income deprivation, the HPI-1 represents a multi-dimensional alternative to the $1.25 a day (PPP US$) poverty measure.

The HPI-1 value of 59.8% for Afghanistan, ranks 135th among 135 countries for which the index has been calculated.

The HPI-1 measures severe deprivation in health by the proportion of people who are not expected to survive to age 40. Education is measured by the adult illiteracy rate. And a decent standard of living is measured by the unweighted average of people not using an improved water source and the proportion of children under age 5 who are underweight for their age. Table 2 shows the values for these variables for Afghanistan and compares them to other countries.

Table 2: Selected indicators of human poverty for Afghanistan
Human Poverty Index
Probability of not surviving to age 40
Adult illiteracy rate
(%ages 15 and above)
People not using an improved water source
Children underweight for age
(% aged under 5)
1. Czech Republic (1.5)1. Hong Kong, China (SAR) (1.4)1. Georgia (0.0)1. Barbados (0)1. Croatia (1)
133. Mali (54.5)148. Central African Republic (39.6)148. Burkina Faso (71.3)148. Niger (58)127. Nepal (39)
134. Niger (55.8)149. Mozambique (40.6)149. Niger (71.3)149. Papua New Guinea (60)128. Burundi (39)
135. Afghanistan (59.8)150. Afghanistan (40.7)150. Afghanistan (72.0)150. Afghanistan (78)129. Afghanistan (39)
151. Zambia (42.9)151. Mali (73.8)130. Eritrea (40)
152. Swaziland (47.2)131. Lao People's Democratic Republic (40)
153. Lesotho (47.4)138. Bangladesh (48)

Building the capabilities of women

The HDI measures average achievements in a country, but it doesnot incorporate the degree of gender imbalance in these achievements.The gender-related development index (GDI), introduced in HumanDevelopment Report 1995, measures achievements in the same dimensionsusing the same indicators as the HDI but captures inequalitiesin achievement between women and men. It is simply the HDI adjusteddownward for gender inequality. The greater the gender disparityin basic human development, the lower is a country's GDI relativeto its HDI.

Afghanistan's GDI value, 0.310 should be compared to its HDI valueof 0.352. Its GDI value is 88.1% of its HDI value. Out of the 155 countries with both HDI and GDI values, 154 countries have a better ratio than Afghanistan's.

Table 3 shows how Afghanistan’s ratio of GDI to HDI compares toother countries, and also shows its values for selected underlyingindicators in the calculation of the GDI.

Table 3: The GDI compared to the HDI - a measure of gender disparity
GDI as % of HDI Life expectancy at birth
Adult literacy rate
(% ages 15 and older)
Combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio

Female as % maleFemale as % maleFemale as % male
1. Mongolia (100.0%)1. Russian Federation (121.7%)1. Lesotho (122.5%)1. Cuba (121.0%)
153. Pakistan (93.0%)187. Pakistan (101.0%)143. Guinea (42.6%)173. Yemen (64.2%)
154. Niger (90.8%)188. Botswana (100.2%)144. Niger (35.1%)174. Chad (60.4%)
155. Afghanistan (88.0%)189. Afghanistan (99.8%)145. Afghanistan (29.2%)175. Afghanistan (55.6%)
190. Swaziland (98.0%)


Every year, millions of people cross national or international borders seeking better living standards. Most migrants, internal and international, reap gains in the form of higher incomes, better access to education and health, and improved prospects for their children. Most of the world’s 195 million international migrants have moved from one developing country to another or between developed countries.

Afghanistan has an emigration rate of 10.6%. The major continent of destination for migrants from Afghanistan is Asia with 91.4% of emigrants living there.

Table 4: Emigrants
Origin of migrantsEmigration rate (%)Major continent of destination for migrants(%)
1. Antigua and Barbuda45.3Asia 46.6
53. Afghanistan10.6Asia 91.4
99. Sri Lanka4.7Asia 54.1
101. Bangladesh4.5Asia 92.4
180. Maldives0.4Asia 38.9
181. Mongolia0.3Europe 40.7
Global aggregates
Least developed countries3.6Asia 44.7
Low human development3.9Africa 64.1
South Asia1.6Asia 78.0

The United States is host to nearly 40 million international migrants – more than any other country though as a share of total population it is Qatar which has the most migrants – more than 4 in every 5 people are migrants. In Afghanistan, there are 86.5 thousand migrants which represent 0.4% of the total population.

Table 5: Immigrants
Destination of migrantsImmigrant stock (thousands)Destination of migrantsImmigrants as a share of population (%) 2005
1. United States39,266.51. Qatar80.5
7. India5,886.970. Bhutan5.7
45. Nepal818.7153. Bangladesh0.7
78. Sri Lanka366.4158. India0.5
124. Afghanistan86.5167. Afghanistan0.4
143. Bhutan37.3
180. Maldives3.2
182. Vanuatu1.0182. China0.0
Global aggregates
South Asia13,847.0South Asia0.9
Least developed countries10,908.5Least developed countries1.4
Low human development8,467.5Low human development2.3

Category: Women, Children, Poverty, Refugees/IDPs, Healthcare/Environment - Views: 41555


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