UNDP Report: Turkey is lagging behind in education and healthcare

The annual Human Development Report, published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reveals many issues that Turkey is facing, yet the Turkish press, for quite a few years now, has ignored these crucial matters.

The report reveals an accurate view of Turkish development compared with nearly all other countries of the world. But I would like to focus on just one detail of the report.

The title of this article is differences in Gross National Income (GNI) and Human Development Index (HDI) rankings, but the subtitle is a question, "what does minus fourteen mean?" In my opinion, the "minus fourteen" issue is very significant for Turkey, and each country is assigned either a plus or minus value that I shall try to explain and interpret.

The HDI initially created by the great Indian-British economist Amartya Sen utilises three primary variables:

1-Economy: GNI per capita (purchasing power parity - PPP)

2-Health: Life expectancy at birth

3-Education: Expected average years of education

The index measures wealth, health and education. If a country reaches higher levels of these three indicators, its human development is considered to be high as well.

Turkey is ranked 64th among approximately 200 countries in the 2018 UNDP report; approximately 200 countries because not all data could be collected from all the states in the study.

What is it like to rank 64th among 200 countries?

I personally, as a Turkey citizen, am disturbed by this result. I always thought the Turkish governments should aim to move up in HDI rankings, perhaps as high as 40th place, before the 100th anniversary of the republic in 2023. But now such a target seems almost impossible.

Turkey's ranking reflects the three primary criteria I mentioned above; the economy, and health and education levels. But the report also ranks countries according to other measures, such as the GNI.

Another ranking we can indirectly see in the report is of per capita GNI adjusted for purchasing power parity. In this classification, countries with vast natural resources such as Qatar, or small countries with strong financial sectors such as Luxembourg or Lichtenstein rank above wealthy countries such as the United States, Britain, France or Germany.

As an example, Qatar's per capita GNI is about $120,000, while Germany's is $46,000, and the United States' stands at about $55,000. But given the option, most people would not prefer to live in Qatar, so the per capita GNI is not a very healthy indicator of the quality of life.

Turkey's ranking in its per capita GNI (PPP) is 14 places higher than its rank in HDI. This means that the quality of education and healthcare improvements are lagging behind increases in Turkey's national income.

Countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Singapore, Bahrain and Qatar are among nations that rank higher in per capita GNI (PPP) than in HDI. Turkey is among these countries.

The difference between Turkey's per capita GNI (PPP) ranking – 50th - and its HDI ranking – 64th - is 14. There are some countries where the difference is positive such as Australia, Britain, Canada, Finland, France, Germany and Sweden. They happen to be countries where many people would choose to live, given the option.

Hence, a negative value in the difference between the per capita GNI (PPP) ranking and HDI ranking indicates problems in a country's education and healthcare services, and a positive value suggests that state spending in education and healthcare is on par with its GNI.

Turkey still has a lot of work to do in areas like education and healthcare. I believe one of the first issues Turkey needs to address is trying to move up the HDI rankings to 40th at the least and increasing the quality and accessibility of education and health services to close the minus 14 disparity between its HDI and per capita GNI (PPP).


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.