Human Development Report 2014

undp_hdr_2014_finalcover-1Since 1990, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been publishing an annual Human Development Report. The latest report from July 2014, “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”, focuses on the question of today’s precariousness. Although an improvement of human development in most countries can be observed – due to advanced technology, education or income – “a widespread sense of precariousness” still exists. Natural or human-induced disasters or crises can eventually undermine the existing efforts and achievements.

Every society is confronted with risks and precariousness, however, not all communities are affected the same way; nor does every group recover in the same time. The 2014 report tackles this issue and, for the first time, analyzes “vulnerability and resilience through a human development lens.” It gives different recommendations on how to address vulnerability and strengthen resilience to future shocks.

The report follows a holistic and people-centered approach. It presents the risk factors which influence human development, and at the same time points out different ways to strengthen resilience relating to these factors. By taking a people-centred approach, the report puts people in the center of the analysis. It considers disparities in and between countries, focuses on the context of inequality of people and its broader causes, and thereby “identifies the ‘structurally vulnerable’ groups of people who are more vulnerable than others by virtue of their history or of their unequal treatment by the rest of society.”

Furthermore, the report takes a “life cycle approach” – it takes into account the fact that people of different ages are confronted with different risks, and that these vulnerabilities change during their lives. Some periods are especially important, such as the first 1000 days of life, and setbacks at this point can be difficult to overcome and may have long lasting impacts. Capabilities to deal with risks and vulnerabilities are built over a lifetime and need constant investment.

Most Vulnerable Groups and The Multidimensional Poverty Index

Among the most vulnerable are people living in extreme poverty and deprivation. The report uses a Multidimensional Poverty Index in order to measure multidimensional poverty, which includes deprivations at the household level in education, health and standard of living.

Some of the report’s findings include the following:

  • More than 2.2 billion people are either near or living in multidimensional poverty;
  • More than 15% of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multidimensional poverty;
  • Nearly 80% of the global population lack comprehensive protection;
  • About 12% (842 million) suffer from chronic hunger;
  • Nearly half of all workers (more than 1.5 billion) are in informal or precarious employment.         

People suffering under a lack of core capabilities, such as education or health, and whose choices are restricted due to social barriers or other exclusionary practices often find it harder to deal with threats. Those barriers also often hinder them to invest in further life capabilities. That in turn challenges them to deal with vulnerabilities at other stages of life and leads to an increase in their vulnerabilities.

Building Resilience

The report gives six recommendations to strengthen and build resilience to risks and future shocks.

  • Universal provision of basic social services: The access to basics services, such as water supply, education, health care and public safety ought to be independent from peoples ability to pay for them. Having these provisions empower people to live a life in dignity that they actually value. It furthermore can raise social competence and reduce structural vulnerability.  
  • Addressing life cycle vulnerabilities: It is important to support the development of capabilities of people at the right time. That includes the stages of early childhood, the transition from youth to young adulthood, and from adulthood to old age. A focus on early childhood is especially needed since countries right now do not invest enough in that stage.
  • Strengthening social protection: Social protection measures, such as unemployment insurance, labor market regulations or further social protection programs, are an important tool to protect people from risks and adversity. These measures can also prevent people in need from taking their children out of school or to postpone necessary medical care, which in turn influences their future vulnerability.
  • Promoting full employment: Full employment helps support the provisioning of social services and brings social benefits. Furthermore, jobs bring forward social stability and decent jobs help to manage shocks and uncertainties.
  • Responsive institutions and cohesive societies: Building resilience requires responsive and accountable governance institutions and policies. They are necessary to overcome inequality, exclusion and vulnerability. Cohesive societies, on the other hand, are of importance since they contribute to building resilient societies, and decreasing conflicts and violence.
  • Building capacities to prepare for and recover from crises: In order to be prepared for natural risks – which are likely to increase poverty, weaken governance or inequality, and thereby enhance vulnerabilities – early warning system are required, especially for those countries and communities that are under-prepared. Countries’ capacities to recover from disasters has to be strengthened.

Findings for THP’s Program Countries

The following table presents a selection of findings of the Multidimensional Poverty Index from The Hunger Project’s program countries. The complete data (p. 180ff.) as well as the data for the further indices can be found here.

Year of data Population in multidimensional poverty – Intensity of deprivation (in %) Population near multidimensional poverty (in %) Population in severe poverty (in %) Population below income poverty line – PPP 1.25$ a day (in %) Population below income poverty line – National poverty line (in %)
Bangladesh 2011 47.8 18.8 21.0 43.25 31.51
Benin 2006 57.4 18.8 45.7 47.33 36.2
Bolivia 2008 47.0 17.3 7.8 15.61 51.3
Burkina Faso 2010 61.3 7.6 63.8 44.6 46.7
Ethiopia 2011 60.9 6.7 67.0 30.65 29.6
Ghana 2011 47.3 18.7 12.1 28.59 28.5
India 2005/2006 51.1 18.2 27.8 32.68 21.9
Malawi 2010 49.8 24.5 29.8 61.64 50.7
Mexico 2012 39.9 10.1 1.1 0.72 52.3
Mozambique 2011 55.6 14.8 44.1 59.58 54.7
Peru 2012 41.4 12.3 2.1 4.91 25.8
Senegal 2010/2011 56.2 14.4 45.1 29.61 46.7
Uganda 2011 51.1 20.6 33.3 38.01 24.5


  • Population near multidimensional poverty: Percentage of the population at risk of suffering multiple deprivations – that is, those with a deprivation score of 20–33 percent.
  • Population in severe poverty: Percentage of the population in severe multidimensional poverty – that is, those with a deprivation score of 50 percent or more.
  • Population below PPP $1.25 a day: Percentage of the population living below the international poverty line $1.25 (in purchasing power parity terms) a day.
  • Population below national poverty line: Percentage of the population living below the national poverty line, which is the poverty line deemed appropriate for a country by its authorities. National estimates are based on population-weighted subgroup estimates from household surveys.

 Both the report and a summary are available in different languages and can be downloaded here.