UNDP: Bahamas rises in human development ranking — but gender inequality persists

UNDP: Bahamas rises in human development ranking — but gender inequality persists
The cover of the UNDP's Human Development Report 2020

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas continues to enjoy marginal increases in its human development ranking by the United National Development Programme (UNDP); however, the income disparity between men and women persisted in 2019.

Overall, the country has maintained its position in the very high human development category — sharing its 2019 ranking of 58 out of 189 countries and territories with Barbados, according to the UNDP’s 2020 Human Development Report released yesterday.

The Bahamas is ranked 77 out of 162 countries on the 2019 Gender Inequality Index (GII), which can be interpreted as the loss in human development due to inequality between men and women across three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity.

The report lists The Bahamas’ Human Development Index (HDI) value for 2019 as 0.814 — a number that is below average for its category but above average when compared with the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Women continue to trail behind the country’s gross national income per capita, which stands at $33,747 and has fallen by about 8.4 percent since 1990.

The report indicates the income disparity between men and women was just under 32 percent in 2019 with the gross national income for men estimated at $40,295 for men and $27,560 for women.

This reflects a slight improvement over 2018 figures that put the gap at just over 33 percent, the gross national income per capita for men at the time was estimated to be $34,288 and for women $22,830.

The gender disparity in the labor market participation rate is just under 14 percent in 2019, with men at 81.6 percent and women at 68.1 percent.

This rate is based on a working-age population aged 15 and older who are engaged in the market by working or actively looking for work.

The percentage of people aged 15–24 who are not in employment or in education or training stood at 22.9 percent in 2019, according to the report.

It noted 21.8 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 88 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 91 percent of adult men.

For every 100,000 live births, 70 women die from pregnancy-related causes; and the adolescent birth rate is 30.0 births per 1,000 women of ages 15-19, it stated.

Life expectancy in the country is 73.9 with expected years of schooling at 12.9.

The 2020 report marks the 30th anniversary of the annual assessment reportedly introduced to provide a simple measure of human progress using a formula that tracks a population’s average longevity, education, and income to measure the standard of living; however, new measures have been added to also additional metrics like poverty, inequality and gender gaps.

The 2020 report reflects pre-COVID data for 2019 and earlier years. It advised that data reflecting changes caused by the pandemic will be presented in its 2021 report.

Last year, UNDP Regional Advisor Kenroy Roach warned concerted effort is required to address the structural inequalities, including the wage gap between men and women, to avoid the nation “sliding back”.

Indices for the Inequality-adjusted HDI and Gender Development could not be calculated due to the lack of relevant data for the country.

The UNDP document also provides a multidimensional poverty index that tracks overlapping deprivations suffered by individuals across three sectors: health, education and standard of living; however, it noted this index also could not be generated for The Bahamas due to the lack of relevant data.

The country’s 2018 index ranking is reported as 58 in the 2020 report; however, it was listed as 60 in last year’s report.

The UNDP has advised against comparing values and rankings with previously published reports due to revisions and updates to underlying data.

However, it provides statistical data on index trends “based on consistent indicators, methodology and time-series data and, thus, shows real changes in values and ranks over time, reflecting the actual progress countries have made”.