Measuring human development An introduction to
If development in the 1990s is to assume a more human face then
there arises a corresponding need for a means of measuring human as
well as economic progress. From UNICEFs point of view, in
particular, there is a need for an agreed method of measuring the
level of child well-being and its rate of change.
The under-five mortality rate (U5MR) is used in table 8 as the
principal indicator of such progress.
The U5MR has several advantages. First, it measures an end result of
the development process rather than an input such as
school enrolment level, per capita calorie availability, or the number
of doctors per thousand population all of which are means to an
Second, the U5MR is known to be the result of a wide variety of
inputs: the nutritional health and the health knowledge of mothers;
the level of immunization and ORT use; the availability of maternal
and child health services (including prenatal care); income and food
availability in the family; the availability of clean water and safe
sanitation; and the overall safety of the childs environment.
Third, the U5MR is less susceptible than, say, per capita GNP to the
fallacy of the average. This is because the natural scale does not
allow the children of the rich to be one thousand times as likely to
survive, even if the man-made scale does permit them to have one
thousand times as much income. In other words, it is much more
difficult for a wealthy minority to affect a nations U5MR, and
it therefore presents a more accurate, if far from perfect, picture of
the health status of the majority of children (and of society as a
For these reasons, the U5MR is chosen by UNICEF as its single most
important indicator of the state of a nations children. That is
why the tables rank the nations of the world not in ascending order of
their per capita GNP but in descending order of their under-five
The speed of progress in reducing the U5MR can be measured by
calculating its average annual reduction rate (AARR). Unlike the
comparison of absolute changes, the AARR reflects the fact that the
lower limits to U5MR are approached only with increasing difficulty.
As lower levels of under-five mortality are reached, for example, the
same absolute reduction obviously represents a greater percentage of
reduction. The AARR therefore shows a higher rate of progress for,
say, a 10-point reduction if that reduction happens at a lower level
of under-five mortality. (A fall in U5MR of 10 points from 100 to 90
represents a reduction of 10 per cent, whereas the same 10-point fall
from 20 to 10 represents a reduction of 50 per cent).
When used in conjunction with GNP growth rates, the U5MR and its
reduction rate can therefore give a picture of the progress being made
by any country or region, and over any period of time, towards the
satisfaction of some of the most essential of human needs.
As table 8 shows, there is no
fixed relationship between the annual reduction rate of the U5MR and
the annual rate of growth in per capita GNP. Such comparisons help to
throw the emphasis on to the policies, priorities, and other factors
which determine the ratio between economic and social progress.
Finally, the table gives the total fertility rate for each country
and its average annual rate of reduction. It will be seen that many of
the nations that have achieved significant reductions in their U5MR
have also achieved significant reductions in fertility.