Turkey has been classified for the first time in the very high development category in the Human Development Index (HDI), posting a 0.806 value in 2018.
The country ranked 59th among 189 countries and territories, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) said in a report released Monday. The country's index value rose 39% from 0.579 in 1990, according to the UNDP report.
The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: A long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. A new generation of inequalities is opening up around education and technology, and climate change, according to the report.
Life expectancy at birth in Turkey surged 13.2 years in the last 28 years. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), average life expectancy at birth for Turkish citizens has reached 78.3 years, with women living 5.4 years longer than men, based on 2016-2018 data. This year's estimated life expectancy at birth inched up from last year's figure of 78 years. Life expectancy at birth was 75.6 years for men and 81 years for women, in a somewhat larger than the worldwide female-male life expectancy gap.
HDI data shows that the country's mean years of schooling rose by 3.1 years, while expected years of schooling climbed by 7.5 years during the same period. In nearly two decades, Turkey saw a massive overhaul of the crumbling education system. The transformation, “that almost built an education infrastructure from scratch,” as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called, helped a rise in schooling rates.
Turkey also boosted its education budget to TL 114 billion from TL 7.5 billion when the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power 16 years ago. Increasing the school-age with 12 years of mandatory education, campaigns to enroll more girls in schools especially in rural areas where girls are prevented by families to go to schools are credited with increasing rates.
Turkey's Gross National Income (GNI) per capita climbed over 120% between 1990 and 2018, the report said.
"Turkey's 2018 HDI of 0.806 is below the average of 0.892 for countries in the very high human development group and above the average of 0.779 for countries in Europe and Central Asia," it noted.
The report also disclosed the standings for the gender inequality index, which reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity. Turkey stood at 66th place out of 162 countries with a gender inequality index value of 0.305 last year. "In Turkey, 17.4% of parliamentary seats are held by women and 44.3% of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 66.0% of their male counterparts," the report said.
Retaining its top position, Norway saw an index value of 0.954 last year. It was followed by Switzerland (0.946), Ireland (0.942), Germany (0.939) and Hong Kong (0.939).
Niger (0.377), Central African Republic (0.381), Chad (0.401), South Sudan (0.413) and Burundi (0.423) performed the worst.
The UNDP report says that despite “unprecedented” progress against poverty, hunger and disease, many societies are not working as they should and current demonstrations sweeping across the world indicate this fact.
“Different triggers are bringing people onto the streets, the cost of a train ticket, the price of petrol, demands political freedoms, the pursuit of fairness and justice. This is the new face of inequality, and as this Human Development Report sets out, inequality is not beyond solutions,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said in a statement published on the UNDP website.
The report, titled “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st Century,” says that just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing for millions of people, the necessities to thrive have evolved. A new generation of inequalities is opening up, around education, and around technology and climate change, two seismic shifts that, unchecked, could trigger a "new great divergence" in the society of the kind not seen since the Industrial Revolution, according to the report.
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