Zambia Ups Progress in Human Development

Aug 13, 2014

L-R: Hon. Ingrid Mphande, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Community Development, Mother & Child Health, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Fackson Shamenda, Vice President, Dr. Guy Scott, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Janet Rogan and Health Minister, Dr. Joseph Kasonde at the launch in Lusaka

Lusaka, Zambia - 13 August, 2014: With significant achievements in life expectancy, education and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in past years, Zambia has risen into the medium human development category, according to the UNDP 2014 Human Development Report, “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”.

The new report, launched here today by His Honour Dr Guy Scott, Vice President of Republic of Zambia, shows that the levels in human development worldwide continue to rise, although the pace has slowed for all regions and progress has been highly uneven. Between 1980 and 2013, Zambia’s Human Development Index (HDI) value increased from 0.422 to 0.561, positioning the country at 141 out of 187 countries and territories.

In spite of this progress, like many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia still has high levels of inequality, according to the UNDP Coefficient on Human Inequality. When Zambia’s HDI value 0.561 is discounted for inequality, the HDI value falls to 0.365.  62.8% of the population is multi-dimensionally poor – meaning that such households suffer overlapping deprivation in education, health and living standards.  A further 18.7% of the population is at risk of falling back into poverty. These particularly vulnerable groups often do not experience improvements in their standard of living even when there is an overall national improvement because they have limited political participation, livelihood options and access to basic social services. Even when they do escape poverty, they can easily relapse into poverty when crises hit.

The UNDP Gender Inequality Index (GII) reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions – reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity. Zambia has a GII value of 0.611, ranking the country 133 out of 149 countries in the 2013 index. This high-level of gender inequalities arise because only 11.5% of parliamentary seats are held by women and only 25.7% of adult Zambian women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 44.2% of Zambian men. For every 100,000 live births, 440 women die from pregnancy-related causes; and the adolescent birth rate is 125.4 births per 1000 live births. Female participation in the labour market is 73.2% compared to 85.7% for men.   

These disparities affect individuals or even entire communities over a lifespan, based on gender, ethnicity, geographic location and other factors. For example, the Report shows that sub-Saharan Africa, which had the second highest rate of progress in the HDI between 2000 and 2013, also has the world’s highest disparities in health, and shows considerable gender inequalities in income, educational attainment and access to reproductive health services.

Noting that vulnerability can accumulate over the course of a lifetime, the Report underlines that policies to maximise people’s future opportunities should pay particular attention to specific periods in life. Such policies would require investing in early childhood services, youth employment and support for older people. The Report argues that preventing shocks and promoting opportunities for all can effectively help reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience.

“The new Report’s focus on resilience is highly relevant to the on-going discussions on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals.  The aim that we should 'Leave No-one Behind' means that action is needed to tackle persistent vulnerability and to boost resilience at the level of the individual as well as of society." said the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Janet Rogan.

Launching the report, Zambia’s Vice-President, Dr. Guy Scott said that there is need to put in place policies that adequately address the development challenges that affect Zambians. 

Dr. Scott underscored the need to know and understand the country’s dynamics because the world is not homogeneous, therefore policies should be tailored to address specific needs.

He said there should be policy consistency with various interventions that are aimed at addressing these challenges.  “We need various interventions that are home-grown and easily adapted to the country. We need consistency in policies and expertise and not just accepting any success stories just because they have worked elsewhere,” he said.

The Report argues that measures to create equal access to jobs, healthcare and education have an important role to play in promoting sustainable and equitable development.  The Report reveals that 77% of the population in sub-Saharan African countries in vulnerable employment, many of them youths, and calls on those countries to adopt full employment policies and promote employment-intensive economic growth, while paying special attention to the quality and security of the jobs created.

The lower human development groups appear to be improving at a higher rate – grounds for optimism that the gap between higher and lower human development groups is narrowing. Meanwhile, the rankings remain unchanged at both extremes of the HDI: Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and United States remain in the lead for another year, while Sierra Leone, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger continue to rank bottom of the list.

Contact information

Moses Zangar, Jr.

Communications Officer
UNDP, Zambia
Cell: +260 967 605 747