Demonstrations sweeping across Latin America and the Caribbean signal that, despite decades of economic growth and prosperity, perceptions of unfairness and loss of dignity persist, particularly among the region’s middle class and historically marginalized.

So argues the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 2019 Human Development Report, entitled “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st century.”

The Human Development Report (HDR), which pioneers a more holistic way to measure countries’ progress beyond economic growth alone, says that just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing, with an unprecedented number of people escaping poverty, hunger, and disease, the necessities to thrive have evolved. The 2019 Human development report articulates the rise of new generation of inequalities. This next generation of inequalities is manifesting around issues of technology, education, and the climate crisis.

“Different triggers are bringing people onto the streets -- the cost of a train ticket, the price of petrol, demands for political freedoms, the pursuit of fairness and justice. This is the new face of inequality, and as this Human Development Report sets out, inequality is not beyond solutions,” says UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner.

As every year, the 2019 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme invites us to take a look at ourselves in the mirror. The report explores inequalities in human development beyond income, beyond averages and beyond today, leading to five key messages for development planners and policy makers:


·       First, while many people are stepping above minimum floors of achievement in human development, widespread disparities remain.

·       Second, a new generation of severe inequalities in human development is emerging, even if many of the unresolved inequalities of the 20th century are declining.

·       Third, inequalities in human development can accumulate through life, frequently heightened by deep power imbalances.

·       Fourth, assessing inequalities in human development demands a revolution in metrics.

·       Fifth, redressing inequalities in human development in the 21st century is possible—if we act now, before imbalances in  economic  power  translate  into  entrenched  political  dominance. The report analyzes inequality in three steps: beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today, proposing a battery of policy options to tackle it.


It notes that in our region, the perception of unfairness in the distribution of wealth has increased since 2012, returning to levels of the late 1990s. Inequality in self-reported happiness (or subjective well-being as it is also called), which had remained steady in the region until 2014, has risen since. However, action is not politically easy.  The report presents evidence that throughout the region, the middle class pays more than it receives in social services. That, coupled with perceptions of low-quality education and health services, can feed resistance to further expanding social policies. One consequence is the preference for private providers: The share of students going to private schools for primary education in Latin America rose from 12 percent in 1990 to 19 percent in 2014. The larger the share of the private sector, the larger the segmentation in social services for different groups.


A key feature of the report is its Human Development Index (HDI) classifications. The 20 statistical tables in the report’s annex provide an overview of key aspects of human development across the globe. The 2019 Human Development Report presents the 2018 HDI (values and ranks) for 189 countries and UN-recognized territories, along with the IHDI for 150 countries, the GDI for 166 countries, the GII for 162 countries, and the MPI for 101 countries.


So, how does Belize match up?

With a registered HDI of 0.720 Belize positioning it at 103 out of 189 countries and territories. The country shows a pattern of slow but consistent improvement in its HDI ranking since 1990. Between 1990 and 2018, Belize’s life expectancy at birth increased by 3.3 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.9 years and expected years of schooling increased by 2.4 years. Although considered a country of High Human development, Belize’s 2018 HDI of 0.720 is below the average of 0.750 for countries in the high human development group and below the average of 0.759 for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.


As the HDI is discounted for inequality, Belize’s HDI slips to 0.558. While this represents an overall loss in HDI of 22.6%, this is comparable to Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole of -22.3% but lags other High HDI countries average of -17%. It should be noted that when considering the Gender Development Index, Belize is considered a Group 1 country, i.e. a country with high equality in HDI achievements between women and men. Belize’s GNI per capita increased by about 43.4 percent between 1990 and 2018.

Download Belize Country Summary Report


2019 HDR Broadcast Package:


For more information and media interviews, contact:

Ian King (Deputy Resident Representative – Belize Country Office) ; +501 8222688

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