After a year of suspension due to the health crisis, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has just resumed the annual thread of its report on the Human Development Index (HDI) in the world. This version 2021-2022, published on 8 September, evaluates the development trajectory over two years, 2020 and 2021. And thus gives a reading of the effects of the Covid crisis on human development in different countries of the world.
Morocco, ranked 122 out of 191 countries in the latest ranking, fell one place this year. The Kingdom is not an isolated case, as the report rightly points out, as over 90% of the countries of the world have seen it their score goes down between 2020 and 2021.
The value of the global human development index itself has decreased in these two years, to deleteas the document points out, Earnings earned in the previous five years. What brings the planet back at the human development level of the year 2016.
Morocco has withstood the Covid crisis better than many other countries, but it remains misclassified. And it dates back to long before the crisis sanitary. On the contrary, when analyzing the data from the report on the HDI, it seems that the Kingdom has resisted better than other countries which, however, are more armed, richer than it.
France thus lost two positions in the standings, going from 26th to 28th place. Ditto for Spain, which loses two positions (from 25th to 27th place). The United States, the first world power, fell from 17th to 21st place, four positions less. Same downgrade in the UAE which lost five places, now ranking 31st.
As for Morocco, its decline is largely justified, as is that of the vast majority of countries in the world, rich, emerging or poor.
Morocco’s decline is caused by the deterioration of health and average income
The UNDP HDI is based on three composite indices, as confirmed by the economist and industry specialist, Larabi Jaidi. These indices provide information on three things: health, education, standard of living. To assess these areas, the UNDP uses life expectancy at birth, average years of schooling and gross national income per capita.
Of these three sub-indicators that enter into the calculation of the HDI, Morocco is folded into two, as shown by the data by country, available on the UNDP website:
– Average life expectancy : it fell from 74.3 years in 2019 to 73.9 years in 2020, to then go back to 74 years in 2021. In 2020 and 2021, Moroccans lost an average of three months of life. This is a direct consequence of Covid.
– Gross national income per capita : it went from 7,398 US dollars in 2019 to 6,882 dollars in 2021, to return approximately to the pre-crisis level (7,303 dollars in 2021), thus following the growth trajectory of the country. A jagged trajectory, with a strong recession in 2020, the year of containment, and the recovery of 2021 which canceled the losses of the previous year.
The third sub-index (average length of studies) remained unchanged, at 5.9 years in 2020 and 2021, despite the effects of the health crisis on the education sector.
It is therefore in the field of health and economic growth that Morocco has weakened. This resulted in its HDI dropping and losing a spot in the world rankings.
Why are warring countries better ranked than Morocco?
However, despite these explanations, the UNDP classification itself remains contested and the methodology followed is criticized.
A methodology which means that a country like Iraq (121st), plagued by unrest for many years, is better ranked than Morocco, a stable country. Ditto for Libya, a country torn apart in the last ten years by civil war and political tensions, but which ranks 104th, 19 positions better than Morocco.
Many therefore consider this classification irrelevant, because common sense would dictate that a citizen of the world, having the choice to go and live in one of these three countries, would opt without thinking about Morocco because of its political and economic stability. . But the fact that these countries are oil producers and therefore have a GDP per capita higher compared to that of Morocco, it distorts the data and the general classification.
Especially when we know, as Professor Larabi Jaidi teaches us, that the three composite indicators have the same weighting in the HDI calculation.
All countries challenge their rankings
But all this remains, according to him, a false debate: “In reality, all countries contest their classification. While this ranking simply gives you an order of magnitude that allows you to see the progress or regression carried out in the three most important areas of human development: health, education and standard of living. It is a look at specific indicators that allow you to focus on the areas in which you have advanced relative to other countries and vice versa. This is a lesson for our public human development policy, ”explains the economist and researcher from the Policy Center for the New South.
“Whether or not HDI is relevant is a false debate. We have to get out of this reading prism to give the UNDP HDP its own dimension: a simple one measurement of three indicators over time, nothing more. Furthermore, the statistics used by this report are also not produced by the UNDP; these are official data issued by the national statistical bodies of each country ”, adds our expert.
The interest of this report, especially that of 2022, is to show us this global setback in human development caused by a pandemic. This gives us lessons and lessons for our public policies.
“The dispute makes no sense. The most important thing is to see what we have left over and what we have withdrawn. Of course, health today is measured only by life expectancy at birth, a simplistic definition that the UNDP itself questions, but the report has been enriched with other indicators, such as the duration of healthy life to better appreciate the level of development. health and social protection sector in each country. This also applies to a set of indicators that the report highlights, such as the gender approach, the adaptation of the HDI in relation to inequalities, as well as other elements for enhancing human development. , based on the concept of vulnerability, resilience and a sense of insecurity ”, explains Larabi Jaidi.
But if the UNDP has these indices that can better reflect the state of human development in each country, why is it content with a static HDI calculation based simply on GDP per capita, life expectancy and length of schooling? For Larabi Jaidi, this is an old debate and each indicator is itself a subject of debate. Ditto for the weighting of each sub-indicator, even questionable.
Our expert explains that these new indicators are not included due to what he calls “the composite indicator paradox”.
“Human development is a complex topic. As you integrate new elements, it becomes even more complex and we end up with an average that hides twenty or thirty sub-indicators. We are losing definitely meaning and we no longer know what this media really hides. This is why the UNDP has kept these same three indicators, which have also evolved. Previously, education had been approached by illiteracy, a highly contested indicator, particularly from Morocco. Today they migrated after schooling. But they wanted to keep the index of three composites because it is significant. Knowing that they bring together other indicators for those who want to enrich the reflection on the human development of their country ”, Larabi Jaidi points out.
Education, Morocco’s Achilles heel
Clearly, if Morocco is to improve its position in HDI, it knows what it needs to do: improve the life expectancy of its population, the average length of schooling of its children and the average per capita income. Precisely these three areas were at the center of the commission’s report on the New Development Model (education and health reform, acceleration of annual GDP growth to 6%).
But the big flaw that Morocco drags on when we analyze and compare its HDI with the countries of the region, remains education. The average duration of studies in the Kingdom is just 5.9 years, while in Iraq it is 7.9 years (112 °); 8.7 years in Lebanon (112th place); 7.6 years in Libya (104th); 9.6 years in Egypt (97th); 7.4 years in Tunisia (97th) or 8.6 years in Turkey (48th).
What makes Larabi Jaidi say that it is the problem of early school leaving that continues to weigh on Morocco’s HDI, especially in the rural world.
Comparison with a country like Philippines it is more significant, because it has the same level of per capita income as Morocco, but surpasses it in the ranking (116th) precisely for this indicator on the duration of schooling. In the Philippines, a child stays in school for an average of 9 years compared to just 5.9 years in Morocco. This weighs the budget in favor of this Asian country despite the fact that the life expectancy at birth of Filipinos is 69.3 years, four years less than for Moroccans.
The current education reform led by Minister Chakib Benmoussa aims precisely to combat this phenomenon of early school leaving that is eating up the country. With the generalization of social protection to all citizens, which would extend life expectancy, it is certain that Morocco will earn many places in this UNDP ranking in the future. Provided these reforms are successful …