A new United Nations report says decades of progress in terms of life expectancy, education and economic prosperity have declined since the pandemic.
The UN’s Human Development Index says since 2020 nine out of 10 countries have slid backwards with the blame on Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the impact of climate change .
The Human Development Index was launched in 1990 by the UN in an effort to look beyond GDP as a measure of well-being of individuals.
According to the UN, the HDI was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.
Switzerland sits at the top of the index this year with a life expectancy of 84 years, an average of 16.5 years spent in education and median salary of $66,000.
At the bottom of the index is South Sudan where life expectancy is 55, people spend just 5.5 years in school on average and earn $768 a year.
Setbacks in a majority of the 191 countries included in the index, especially in life expectancy, have taken development levels backwards , reversing a 30-year trend, the report says.
In the US, for example, life expectancy at birth has dropped by more than two years since 2019. In other countries the decline is much higher.
2021 was the first time the index declined overall since calculations began and this year’s results solidified that downward trend.
Two-thirds of rich countries rebounded last year while most others continued to decline.
This year’s index is based on data from 2021. “But the outlook for 2022 is grim,” says Achim Steiner, one of index’s authors, who points out that more than 80 countries are facing problems paying off their national debt.
“Eighty countries being one step away from facing that kind of crisis is a very serious prospect,” he says.
“We are seeing deep disruptions, the tail end of which will play out over a number of years.”