Measuring development is difficult (it’s complicated, as my Comparative Development class likes to say). There are so many moving parts and ways to view and define development, that any one measurement or set of measurements is sure to miss the whole story. But measure things we do, in order to track progress, compare countries, and focus our efforts. The UNDP for the past twenty years has released the Human Development Index (HDI), which should give an evolving yet comprehensive look at development. The HDI value, however, cannot be an accurate indicator of development. Why? Because the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) exists.

The GDI (along with the GEM) was introduced in 1995
. It “is simply the HDI discounted, or adjusted downwards, for gender inequality.” And therein lies my issue. The goal of the index is to measure development, and if its name is to be believed, it is measuring the development of humans. If there exists gender inequality within a country, the HDI should simply be discounted rather than having this segregated, lesser index to cover gender-related issues. Yes, the UNDP needs to be paying attention to inequalities within a country, but those should be reflected in the HDI number. A better use of time and a more useful statistic, IMO, would be a measure of gender inequality (which the GDI expressly does not measure. The UNDP recommends approximating gender inequality by looking at the difference between the HDI and GDI numbers). How can the status of all genders improve if Human does not include us?

Advertisements