Brazil’s Human Development Index

Carolina Cardenas – Brazil Institute, 08/01/2013



According to UNDP’s 2013 Human Development Report, Brazil ranks 85th out of 187 countries included in the study.  Today, Brazil’s Human Development Index is at 0.730 compared to 0.522 in 1980, representing a 40 percent increase over a twenty year period. This indicates that the country’s position in the human development index rose from low human development (0.500-0.599) to high human development (0.700-0.799). Currently, only 32 of Brazil’s 5,565 cities meet the “very low human development” standard.  Despite these significant improvements, Brazil still ranks below the Latin America and Carribean regional average, where HDI grew from 0.574 to 0.741 over the same time period.

The Human Development Index was created by the UNDP as a new and more encompassing way of measuring development, combining indicators of life expectancy, access to education, and income. UNDP’s objective is to move towards a broader definition of well-being that stems aways from the conventional measures of income and rate of economic growth. For each of these three dimensions, a country is assigned a value between 0 and 1.  Brazil’s highest score was achieved in health, with 0.849, placing it in the category of very high development, followed by income at 0.682, and education at 0.674. Although these results indicate that development in education still remains relatively low in Brazil, it is important to note that it is the dimension with the greatest percentage increase over the twenty year period, from 0.402 to 0.674 (60 percent). According to UNDP, this improvement has been achieved due to higher rates of students attending schools (7.2 compared to 2.6 in 1980).

Additionally, in terms of Municipal HDI, 85.8 percent of Brazil’s municipalities were in the “very low human development” category in 1991. However, by 2010, the number decreased to 0.57 percent. According to Jorge Chediek, representative of UNDP in Brazil,  “Brazil has shown extraordinary progress in terms of health, education, and income distribution. This shows that it is possible, in very little time, to change the conditions of a country.”

The findings of UNPD’s Human Development Report 2013, The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, show that the transition of many developing countries in the South towards major world economies has propelled and impacted human development, on both income and non-income dimensions.  However, in light of recent developments in Brazil, where millions have taken the streets to express insatisfaction with an unresponsive political class, it is paramount to emphasize that economic growth alone does not necessarily translate into progress in human development, and that sound political, economic, and social policies must be impelemented.

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