Thursday, December 11, 2008

Child Development Index

Save the Children, UK has released The Child Development Index, the first ever ranking of countries in terms of their performance on child-specific indicators in health, education, and nutrition. Here is a fascinating interactive chart about the index and country performance.

The report focuses on distributional effects of growth on children. It shows that there are still high levels of child poverty and depravation, income levels are a poor indicator of progress in reducing child depravation, children’s wellbeing does not linearly increase with adult’s wellbeing, and there are variations between and within country comparisons.

The three indicators used in the report are: health (under-five mortality rate), nutrition (under-fives who are moderately and severely underweight), and education (primary school-age children who are not enrolled in school). An average of these three indicators is taken by giving equal weight to each of them. A low score represents a low level of child deprivation. A zero score means that all children survive beyond their fifth birthday, all under fives are well-nourished, and all primary school-age children are enrolled in primary school.

According to the report, Japan ranks first with 0.41 score. The other in the top five are Spain, Canada, Italy, Finland, and Iceland. The worse country in terms of child deprivation is Niger (score 85.47). The ten worst countries in terms of child deprivation are all from Sub-Saharan Africa: Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Angola, DRC, Chad, Mali, Central African Republic, and Guinea-Bissau. Latin America and the Caribbean performed best with 57% improvement over the three time periods (1990-94, 1995-99, and 2000-06) considered in the report.

The report is critical of slow progress in this front in South Asia (especially India), where high growth rate is not consistent with slacking progress on children poverty and depravation.Nepal’s CDI score is 25.62 and ranks 95 out of 137 countries considered in the ranking. In terms of GDP per capita adjusted ranking, Nepal performed even badly with a ranking of 109. This means that growth in income has not been translated into improvements in child poverty and deprivation!

South Asia has a high level of deprivation, scoring 26.4; this is 3 times worse than East Asia. It is also making slow progress, improving child well-being by just 32% over 1990-2006 (compared to East Asia’s 45% improvement). This is because India (where almost three-quarters of the region’s children live) made the least progress of any country in South Asia; just a 27% improvement. In this region, child nutrition is a substantial obstacle; almost 1 in 2 children is underweight. Malnutrition levels are not being reduced rapidly enough; the region’s enrolment indicator improved by 59% while its nutrition indicator improved by only 14%. Higher levels of economic growth in the region are not widely translating into reduced child deprivation.

Why so much attention on this dimension of poverty? Well, on average each year of schooling increases a person’s wage as an adult by nearly 10% and today’s children are tomorrow’s human capital required for economy.

The report warns that if the current trends in child poverty continues, then there will be more malnourished children in Afria by 2015 than there are today. By 2015, 58 countries will still fall short of meeting the the goal of universal primary education.

HDI vs. CDI:

The United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) is similar in concept to our Index, except it mainly uses adult-focused indicators like income and adult literacy.When we compared the ranking of countries in our Child Development Index against the HDI,we noticed substantial differences. Two-thirds of our Index countries are ranked significantly differently (a difference of more than five ranked places) in the 2000–06 CDI than in the current HDI. Several countries are performing much better in terms of the child index than the human index: Malawi,Tanzania and Honduras have moved up in the CDI between 20 and 30 places. And many countries are doing far worse in terms of the child index than the human one, with Oman, Pakistan and the Philippines sliding down in the CDI between 20 and 50 places.

The report suggests policymakers to focus attention on three main dimensions of child poverty and depravation: prioritizing child nutrition, promoting equitable development,and supporting women’s education and empowerment.

Some stats:

  • 9.2 million children die every year before they turn 5 yrs old
  • 97% of all child deaths occur in 68 countries
  • 143 million children are malnourished
  • 1/4 of all the children in the world are underweight
  • 1/3 of all children have stunted growth
  • 75 million primary school-age children are not enrolled in school

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