The Human Development Report 2011

The latest release by the United Nations of the Human Development Report provides an occasion to review how the Philippines is tracking compared to its Asian neighbors.

Since 1980, the UN has compiled data relating to the human development of nations. The HDI or human development index is a composite of three dimensions of human well-being. The following dynamic chart provides a history of the country’s HDI from 1980 up to 2011 in relation to four other countries in the region, namely Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Click the “play” button and you will find that as all nations in the region climbed up in the HDI ladder, the Philippines which ranked a close second to Malaysia in 1980 with an HDI score of .55 compared to .56 for the latter was overtaken in 1992 by Thailand. Malaysia has widened its gap with the rest of the pack scoring .76 this year compared with .68 for Thailan and .64 for the Philippines.


Turning to the Education Index, which is based on the mean years of schooling for adults and the expected years of schooling for children, we find that the Philippines was the leader of the pack back in 1980 with a score of .53 compared to Malaysia the first runner up with .42 and Vietnam the second runner up with 0.4.

It took seventeen years for Malaysia to close that gap and overtake us in 1998. It now sits in the lead with a score of .73 compared to us at .68. Thailand ranks third with a score of .6. This is in part because of the expected years of schooling of our children which at 11.9 years is below Indonesia’s which is at 13.2, Malaysia’s at 12.6 and Thailand’s at 12.3, Vietnam is catching up to us with 10.4.


In health, the Philippines began in third position with a health index of .68 in 1980. It has ended at the bottom of the heap in 2011 with a score of .77. It has the lowest life expectancy at birth of 68.7 years compared to Vietnam which ranked first with 75.2, Malaysia at 74.2, Thailand at 74.1 and Indonesia at 69.4.

The Philippines has the second to the lowest level of expenditure on public health at 1.3% of GDP compared to Vietnam which ranked first with 2.8%, Thailand with 2.7%, and Malaysia with 1.9%. Only Indonesia spent proportionately less than us with 1.2%.

The Philippines also has the second to the highest mortality rate for under-five year olds with 33 children out of one thousand live births dying before the age of five, compared to 39 for Indonesia, 24 for Vietnam, 14 for Thailand and 6 for Malaysia.


In terms of income, the Philippines ranked second to Malaysia in 1980 but was overtaken by Thailand in 1982 and then by Indonesia in 1993. Vietnam is quickly gaining on us. In the three decades from 1980 and 2009, average incomes rose by 22% in the Philippines from $2,620 to $3,220 (measured in purchasing power parity terms). Thailand’s average income tripled to $7,260 from $2,200. Malaysia’s grew by 260% to $12,725 from $4,890.

Poverty headcounts measured as a percentage of the population was included in this year’s report. It showed the Philippines with the second lowest poverty incidence of 13.4% compared to Thailand with 1.6%, Vietnam with 17.7% and Indonesia with 20.8%. Malaysia’s poverty headcount was not available.

In terms of the severity of poverty felt by those who are in poverty, however, which is based on multiple dimensions of poverty, not just income, the Philippine poor suffered the highest intensity of poverty.

Gender Gap

The Gender Inequality Index started to be collated in 1995. This is a composite measure which tracks inequality between women and men in three dimensions involving reproductive health, empowerment and the labor market. The lower the score is, the higher the level of development.

The Philippines had an inequality index of about .49 the second highest. This has gone down to .43 with no change in its ranking among the five countries. This is in part to do with the high maternal mortality ratio which in 2008 was still close to one in a thousand live births resulting in death for the mother compared to the leader Malaysia which sees three in ten thousand live births.

Our adolescent fertility rate is the highest in 2000 at 49.1 per one thousand women aged 15-19 years falling pregnant. It has actually gone up to 54.1 per one thousand women falling pregnant in 2010.

On the plus side, our representation of women in secondary education is the highest with 1.03 women to men enrolled, and similarly our ratio of women in parliament is second best at 27%. However in terms of labor force participation, we place a very distant third place with only about a 63 percent ratio of women to men participating compared to nearly ninety percent for Vietnam and about eighty percent for Thailand.


The Philippines had the second highest average number of people per year affected by natural disaster with 48,370 per million inhabitants affected in 2010. Thailand had the highest number with 58,220 affected. Indonesia had the lowest with 1,364. But in terms of casualties, the country suffered the biggest number of deaths with ten for every million inhabitants dying due to natural disasters.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy ( and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • Anonymous

    Scroll thru the display and you’ll glimpse Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru — HDI even better than Thailand and therefore better than Pinas.   Dem banana republics have done better even if they, too, have their civil wars.  Can it be because their version of the CBCP is better?  Heck… our boksingeros are better than theirs!  Can’t be that they retained the  Spanish language, maybe they just worked harder or they don’t have typhoons plus they spent more of their GDP on public health and elementary- and secondary-education, I don’t really know.

  • Anonymous

    “The Philippines has the second to the lowest level of expenditure on
    public health at 1.3% of GDP compared to Vietnam which ranked first with
    2.8%, Thailand with 2.7%, and Malaysia with 1.9%. Only Indonesia spent
    proportionately less than us with 1.2%.

    Where is Pilipinas spending its money?   The Bataan Nuclear Reactor is paid for…  where is Pilipinas now spending its money?!  Or is PresiNoynoy putting the money into a savings account…   to impress some banker-dude somewhere out there.

    • GabbyD

      this is public spending (govt). the private health care market in RP is quite big. 

    • It is not just the inputs in terms of public spending, but more importantly, it is the outcomes of that spending or lack of it that is very telling. We have the lowest health index among the five countries despite spending more than Indonesia. 

      Health is where we have the lowest score relative to our peers among the three indicators that make up the HDI. It is where we have the biggest room for improvement. Vietnam, which is the only other country with a lower level of income than the Philippines, has the longest life expectancy. It spends the most as a proportion of its economy on public health.

      Certainly a larger public spending does not guarantee better outcomes, but in Vietnam’s case, it appears to be the case. On the other hand, Indonesia, which spent slightly less than us, achieves a slightly better Health Index (although it performs the worst in terms of under-5 mortality).

  • The slower we go the behinder we get.

  • For having the most corrupt government in Asia the past nine years with all those high government officials too busy with pocketing most of the nation’s wealth and with nothing else, why, it should not take a rocket scientist to figure out why we lagged behind in all aspects of human development, ‘di ba?

    • Anonymous

      We looked at the enemy in the mirror and we saw — Americans!!!–   Gu-Mac Arroyo   –Chinese families
      lack of government spending on schools God punishing Pilipinas for atheists and growing Protestantism
      Gu-Mac Arroyo bad roads… what-the….FF!!! no internet!!!
        Marcos, then Cory, then Tabako, especially Erap and
      talagang malas… palaging bagyo.. earthquakes…
      oligarchs, hacendero mentality… kaniya-kaniya… crabbies
      low tax collections .. no planning… just “bahala na ang Diyos!”
      hacenderos and oligarchs and the rich kicking the ladder so the poor stay poor
      World Bank… IMF…. but not China.. China our friend…
      USA meddling about Japayukis jobs… drug mules…

      but but but… especially Gu-Mac Arroyo!!!!

      But all will be well.  Just lean back, relax, no need to work any harder, all will be well … Pilipinas is in good hands now.

      • We looked at our idol in the mirror of our mind and we yearned for the past, the evil in the frame totally disregarded because we think the present is our enemy and looks more evil in our mirror.