Inequality hinders Jamaica's development- UNDP
The Human Development Report released earlier this month presented data which point to increasing levels of inequality in Jamaica, data which deeply concerns the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office operating in Jamaica.
Deputy resident representative at UNDP, Dr Elise Laurence-Chounoune, told The Gleaner that Jamaica's human development is being hindered by increasing levels of inequality.
Jamaica's fall in the latest rankings on the human development index (HDI) corresponds with a decline in its inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI).
The IHDI is basically the HDI discounted for inequalities. It was introduced in the 2010 version of the Human Development Report and addresses a complaint by critics that, like all averages, the HDI masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population.
According to the Human Development Report, "The 'loss' in human development due to inequality is given by the difference between the HDI and the IHDI, and can be expressed as a percentage. As the inequality in a country increases, the loss in human development also increases."
Based on the methodology outlined in the report, the HDI value of 0.719, which was recorded this year for Jamaica would fall to 0.593 when discounted for inequality. That represents a fall off of about 17.5 per cent. The human inequality coefficient for Jamaica, which is a direct measure of inequality, came in at 16.9 per cent.
"This shows how inequality impacts a country. Inequality is so high that the HDI value of Jamaica would really fall when it is discounted for inequality," Laurence-Chounoune said as she reviewed data from the report with The Gleaner.
For Laurence-Chounoune, the economic reform programme is not doing enough to address vulnerable groups that face the brunt of the inequality in Jamaica.
"The vulnerable groups, we have to have a specific focus on them. UNDP is designing a programme with West Kingston as a pilot because we know there is a lot of vulnerabilities in West Kingston," she said.
Laurence-Chounoune also pointed out that inequality in Jamaica is driven largely by youth unemployment.
"We will be working to provide opportunities, particularly to the youth because youth unemployment is still too high in Jamaica. It has fallen a bit, but it is still too high for a country that has so many youth. I believe that all the international development programmes should have a specific focus on youth unemployment. That should boost income and reduce inequality because that is the problem, the youth and other vulnerable groups are not really being paid attention in the way they are supposed to," she added.