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July 19,2004--Ireland has moved to 10th place in the UN Human Development Quality of Life Index, up 2 places from 2003 and eight places since 2002. However, we have the second highest level of poverty in the western world after a decade of economic growth that has only been surpassed by China.

The Irish are now richer than Americans. Our GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power is $36,360 compared with a US figure of $35,750. The Irish economy grew by an annual average of 6.8% in the period 1990-2002, only behind China which had an annual average growth of 8.6 per cent. We remain one of the world's most open economies with 83% of our goods and services imported and 98% exported. Our web usage at 271 per 1,000 is low compared with other European countries.  

The human development index (HDI) is a composite index that measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined gross enrolment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary schools; and a decent standard of living, as measured by GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) US dollars. The index is constructed using indicators that are currently available globally, and a methodology that is simple and transparent. While the concept of human development is much broader than any single composite index can measure, the HDI offers a powerful alternative to income as a summary measure of human well-being. It provides a useful entry point into the rich information contained in the subsequent indicator tables on different aspects of human development.

The HDI in the United Nation's Report is constructed to compare country achievements across all levels of human development. The indicators currently used in the HDI yield very small differences among the top HDI countries, and thus the top of the HDI rankings often reflects only the very small differences in these underlying indicators. For these high-income countries an alternative index—the human poverty index. The state of human development)—can better reflect the extent of human deprivation that still exists among these populations and help direct the focus of public policies. 

The human poverty index ranking for selected 17 OECD countries, reflects deprivations in four dimensions: 

  • A long and healthy life—vulnerability to death at a relatively early age, as measured by the probability at birth of not surviving to age 60.

  • Knowledge—exclusion from the world of reading and communications, as measured by the percentage of adults (aged 16–65) lacking functional literacy skills. 

  • A decent standard of living—as measured by the percentage of people living below the income poverty line (50% of the median adjusted household disposable income). 

  • Social exclusion—as measured by the rate of long-term unemployment (12 months or more).

Ireland ranks in second last place, ahead of the US, of the 17 country sample, with 15.3% of Irish people living in poverty. We spend less on health and education than our European neighbours and income inequality, illiteracy and lower life expectancy among poorer people confirm that we are a very unequal society. Last month we wrote of the dark side of the Celtic Tiger (see article below). The comparative poverty statistics in this very comprehensive report are an indictment of how we have handled an economic good fortune for which we owe much to both the US and European Union for ( See article below: The Celtic Tiger and Public Squalor in Modern Ireland)


               HUMAN POVERTY INDEX
        RANK                         % VALUE

1 Norway

2 Sweden

3 Australia

4 Canada

5 Netherlands

6 Belgium

7 Iceland

8 United States

9 Japan

10 Ireland

11 Switzerland

12 United Kingdom

13 Finland

14 Austria

15 Luxembourg

16 France

17 Denmark

18 New Zealand

19 Germany

20 Spain

21 Italy













































The report notes that Human Development is about enlarging people’s choices. 'We value achievements that do not show up in economic growth figures: such as knowledge, health, and political freedoms. 

Every country is diverse and increasingly so:
  • oOver 5,000 ethnic groups, 6,000 languages in 200 countries
  • oOver 100 countries have cultural minorities of over 25%
  • oConcentrations of diversity occur in big cities (Toronto 44% foreign born population)
  • oRecord numbers of migrants, especially into rich countries
  • oWe live in a ‘global village’

n1 in 7 people belong to groups that are discriminated against or disadvantaged as a result of their cultural identities

à Much more work on measurement of exclusion needed; inequality has a cultural dimension


This report argues that embracing diversity is the only sustainable solution because:
  • oIt is the only way to respect cultural freedoms and rights
  • oIt is the only feasible choice. Identities are irrepressible – repression creates tensions and conflicts that lasts centuries.
  • oMany countries have tried it.  (Canada, India, Belgium, Spain, South Africa …..)

1 Norway

2 Sweden

3 Australia

4 Canada

5 Netherlands

6 Belgium

7 Iceland

8 United States

9 Japan

10 Ireland

11 Switzerland

12 United Kingdom

13 Finland

14 Austria

15 Luxembourg

16 France

17 Denmark

18 New Zealand

19 Germany

20 Spain

21 Italy

22 Israel

23 Hong Kong,China (SAR)

24 Greece

25 Singapore

26 Portugal

27 Slovenia

28 Korea,Rep. of

29 Barbados

30 Cyprus

31 Malta

32 Czech Republic

33 Brunei Darussalam

34 Argentina

35 Seychelles

36 Estonia

37 Poland

38 Hungary

39 Saint Kitts and Nevis

40 Bahrain

41 Lithuania

42 Slovakia

43 Chile

44 Kuwait

45 Costa Rica

46 Uruguay

47 Qatar

48 Croatia

49 United Arab Emirates

50 Latvia

51 Bahamas

52 Cuba

53 Mexico

54 Trinidad and Tobago

55 Antigua and Barbuda


56 Bulgaria

57 Russian Federation

58 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

59 Malaysia

60 Macedonia,TFYR

61 Panama

62 Belarus

63 Tonga

64 Mauritius

65 Albania

66 Bosnia and Herzegovina

67 Suriname

68 Venezuela

69 Romania

70 Ukraine

71 Saint Lucia

72 Brazil

73 Colombia

74 Oman

75 Samoa (Western)

76 Thailand

77 Saudi Arabia

78 Kazakhstan

79 Jamaica

80 Lebanon

81 Fiji

82 Armenia

83 Philippines

84 Maldives

85 Peru

86 Turkmenistan

87 St.Vincent & the Grenadines

88 Turkey

89 Paraguay

90 Jordan

91 Azerbaijan

92 Tunisia

93 Grenada

94 China

95 Dominica

96 Sri Lanka

97 Georgia

98 Dominican Republic

99 Belize

100 Ecuador


101 Iran, Islamic Rep. of

102 Occupied Palestinian Territories

103 El Salvador

104 Guyana

105 Cape Verde

106 Syrian Arab Republic

107 Uzbekistan

108 Algeria

109 Equatorial Guinea

110 Kyrgyzstan

111 Indonesia

112 Viet Nam

113 Moldova,Rep. of

114 Bolivia

115 Honduras

116 Tajikistan

117 Mongolia

118 Nicaragua

119 South Africa

120 Egypt

121 Guatemala

122 Gabon

123 São Tomé and Principe

124 Solomon Islands

125 Morocco

126 Namibia

127 India

128 Botswana

129 Vanuatu

130 Cambodia

131 Ghana

132 Myanmar

133 Papua New Guinea

134 Bhutan

135 Lao People’s Dem.Rep.

136 Comoros

137 Swaziland

138 Bangladesh

139 Sudan

140 Nepal

141 Cameroon


142 Pakistan

143 Togo

144 Congo

145 Lesotho

146 Uganda

147 Zimbabwe

148 Kenya

149 Yemen

150 Madagascar

151 Nigeria

152 Mauritania

153 Haiti

154 Djibouti

155 Gambia

156 Eritrea

157 Senegal

158 Timor-Leste

159 Rwanda

160 Guinea

161 Benin

162 Tanzania, U.Rep. of

163 Côte d’Ivoire

164 Zambia

165 Malawi

166 Angola

167 Chad

168 Congo,Dem.Rep. of the

169 Central African Republic

170 Ethiopia

171 Mozambique

172 Guinea-Bissau

173 Burundi

174 Mali

175 Burkina Faso

176 Niger

177 Sierra Leone


Source: UN Human Development Report 2004

Click for background, charts etc on Report

Click for Complete Report (size 2.9MB- in pdf format

The difference between GNP and GDP is a matter of the nationality of the producers and the location of production:

GNP = final goods and services produced by Irish owned business organisations in Ireland + goods and services produced by Irish business in other countries

GDP = final goods and services produced by Irish business organisations in Ireland + goods and services produced by foreign owned business corporations in Ireland

Final goods are goods that are ultimately consumed rather than used in the production of another good. For example, a car sold to a consumer is a final good; the components such as tires sold to the car manufacturer are not; they are intermediate goods used to make the final good. The same tires, if sold to a consumer, would be a final good.

Ireland's GDP is significantly higher than its GNP because of the large number of foreign owned business organisations which operate in Ireland.

GDP is a better measure of the state of production in the short term. GNP is a better measure when analysing sources and uses of income. Click here for more information. 

Click here for Global GNP Per Capita by Country

- Michael Hennigan

Our Comment feature has been incorporated in the:

The Finfacts Ireland News & Comment  Service from October 2004

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September 2004:

Ireland Tops Cash per Head Income Aid from European Union
Can Vincent Browne Shake Up a Cosy Irish Media?

Get an Education and Make Crime Pay

August 2004:

America: Celebrities, Politics and Money
Is Saudi Arabia on the Brink?
The Manchurian Candidate and the Evil Corporation
Darfur, the Media Loop and When News of Mass Killings is News

July 2004:

Incendiary Money Spinners: Fahrenheit 9/11 and President George W. Bush Assassination Novel Plot
Aer Lingus Management Buyout/MBO-A Contrarian View

UN Human Development Report 2004 and Ireland
Should Bertie Ahern Sack Mary Harney from the Irish Cabinet?

June 2004:

Senator Joseph McCarthy: The Implosion of an Irish American Demagogue
Irish Media-Caged or Paper Tigers?
The Celtic Tiger and Public Squalor in Modern Ireland
The Many Facets of Racism Part 1
The Many Facets of Racism Part 2

May 2004:

Balancing Frugality and Miserliness
The Gekko Doctrine-Fair Pay in an Age of Greed 
The Genesis of American Foreign Policy
In an Age of Cynicism: Trust me, I'm a Politician!

April 2004:

Dealing with Al Qaeda Terrorism
Employment Rights and Human Rights
The Opiate of the Masses
Prison of Culture-Japanese Hostages Get Icy Welcome Home 

March 2004:

The Irish Abuse of Power Tribunals
1989-A Year of Irish Corruption and Freedom
Iraq War and Embittered Tit-for-Tat
Irish Corruption and Morality: 'But sir, don't they all steal?'


US Corporate Scandals and the Laws of Unintended Consequences
Self Interest - Common Interest Imbalances

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