Belgrade, 9 Decembre 2019 - According to the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2019, Serbia's Human Development Index for 2018 is 0.799, positioning the country at 63rd place out of 189 countries and territories and presenting a move up of two places compared to the last year's Report. The champion of human development is Norway. Switzerland and Ireland follow.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.  According to HDI, countries are ranked from low to very high human development countries. Serbia is in the category of high human development countries, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia and Albania when it comes to countries in the region. Other countries in the region, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria are in the category of very high human development countries.

Inequalities in human development hurt societies and weaken social cohesion and people’s trust in government, institutions and each other. They hurt economies, wastefully preventing people from reaching their full potential at work and in life. They make it harder for political decisions to reflect the aspirations of the whole society and to protect our planet, as the few pulling ahead flex their power to shape decisions primarily in their interests.

Inequalities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – a shrinking Middle Class and the impact of digitization

According to UNDP’s most recent global Human Development Report, the middle class is particularly at risk in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. GDP growth combined with a shrinking middle class is strong indirect evidence that income inequalities in the region are growing.

High levels of informal and vulnerable employment, gaps in social protection, emigration of skilled and young workers, and perceptions of inequality before the law make inequality issues particularly pressing in the region, the Report shows. Labour market inequalities and exclusion lie at the heart of the region’s inequality challenges and are driving the outmigration that is aggravating depopulation trends in much of the region.

Although the region as a whole registers the lowest inequality between men and women on the Gender Inequality Index, women remain vulnerable to labour market exclusion. Also at risk are young workers, migrants, the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, historically marginalized communities, and residents of rural and isolated areas.

Climate change and technological disruption could severely slow down their efforts to reduce inequalities.

For instance, nearly 90 percent of the region’s energy comes from fossil fuels, and nearly 30 percent of land is classified as degraded. Vulnerable rural households with uncertain access to water or whose livelihoods are linked to farming degraded lands are more likely to face heightened socio-economic, as well as ecological and climate risks. This is apparent in several areas of the region, including the Western Balkans.

The region’s ratio of highly skilled to low-skilled workers is only half that of OECD countries— a gap which may become harder to close as technology advances in richer nations. Some countries in the region are capitalizing on high levels of human capital and emerging IT skills to integrate into knowledge-intensive cross-border value chains. But ensuring that the benefits of digitalization are widely shared means strengthening labour market participation of all.

Inequalities in the 21st Century - We have a choice, but we must act now

Inequalities in human development are not just about disparities in income and wealth. There is economic inequality, of course, but there are also inequalities in key elements of human development such as health, education, dignity and respect for human rights. This report assesses what inequalities are becoming important today, how they differ around the world and among population groups, and how they are changing.

The demonstrations sweeping across the world today signal that, despite unprecedented progress against poverty, hunger and disease, many societies are not working as they should. The connecting thread, argues a new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is inequality.

“This Human Development Report sets out how systemic inequalities are deeply damaging our society and why. Inequality is not just about how much someone earns compared to their neighbour. It is about the unequal distribution of wealth and power: the entrenched social and political norms that are bringing people onto the streets today, and the triggers that will do so in the future unless something changes. Recognizing the real face of inequality is a first step; what happens next is a choice that each leader must make.” says UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner.

Just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing, new forms of inequalities are emerging, around education, and around technology and climate change - two seismic shifts that, unchecked, could trigger a ‘new great divergence’ in society of the kind not seen since the Industrial Revolution, according to the report. 

The climate crisis is already hitting the poorest hardest, while technological advances such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can leave behind entire groups of people, even countries—creating the spectre of an uncertain future under these shifts.

In countries with very high human development, for example, subscriptions to fixed broadband are growing 15 times faster and the proportion of adults with tertiary education is growing more than six times faster than in countries with low human development.

Developed countries are responsible for the vast majority of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. Yet climate change will hit hardest and earliest in the tropics, where many developing countries are located. At the same time, developing countries and poor and vulnerable communities have fewer capacities to adapt to climate change and severe weather events than do their richer counterparts.

The largest systematically disadvantaged group worldwide is women. Because these disadvantages affect half the world, gender inequality is one of the greatest barriers to human development. Based on current trends, it will take 202 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity alone, cites the report.

Therefore, policies that address underlying biases, social norms and power structures are key. For example, policies to balance the distribution of care, particularly for children, are crucial, says the report, given that much of the difference in earning between men and women throughout their lifecycle is generated before the age of 40.

Inequalities are deeply rooted in our societies, economies and politics. Inequality begins even before birth and can accumulate, amplified by differences in health and education, into adulthood. Policies to address it, therefore, must also start at or before birth, including investing in young children’s learning, health and nutrition. Such investments must continue through a person’s life, when they are earning in the labour market and after, so they can adapt or retrain for new occupations.

An international consensus on how to tax digital activities should be a part of building a new, secure and stable digital economy as a force for convergence, not divergence, in human development. The report also argues that taxation cannot be looked at on its own, but it should be part of a system of policies, including public spending on health, education, and alternatives to a carbon-intensive lifestyle.

If inequalities in human development persist and grow, the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will remain unfulfilled.

The future of inequalities in human development in the 21st century is in our hands. The climate crisis shows that the price of inaction compounds over time as it feeds further inequality, which, in turn, makes action more difficult. While we do have a choice, we must exercise it now. 

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