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Statistics, Development and Human Rights

In this paper, an analysis of human development in a small developing country, namely Jamaica, is undertaken. Jamaica is a Caribbean country which has been characterised by a high level of emigration and the growth of an informal sector.  These two features have given rise to ‘invisible economies’ and their full impact on the human development process has been difficult to assess and measure. For example, emigration provides local residents with remittances which are not directly captured in official economic reporting. This source of income can be an important element in household expenditure decisions. Furthermore, the informal labour market can provide additional income which can have a positive impact on household expenditure.

The structure of the paper is as follows: in section 2, a discussion of the measurement of human development is undertaken. An examination of the measurement of poverty in Jamaica is also presented. In section 3, an analysis of socio-economic trends in Jamaica over the period 1989-98 is undertaken. The analysis is based on data obtained from the Surveys of Living Conditions conducted in Jamaica since 1989. The role of the invisible and undetected sectors resulting from emigration and the informal sector is analyzed within the context of human development in Jamaica.

2. The Measurement of Human Development

The exponential growth in the concern with human and social development – its features and requisites – has expectedly stimulated a phenomenal rise in the attempts to develop measures and indicators that can accurately portray and map the levels of and changes in these aspects of the development process. More specifically, the central place currently occupied by poverty reduction and alleviation objectives in almost all the development assistance programmes being introduced and implemented in most developing countries has given fresh impetus to the efforts to define and measure poverty and socio-economic marginalisation.

The measurement of a multi-dimensional and dynamic process such as human development has been a challenge to social and economic statisticians. In order to determine changes in human development over time and across countries, analysts have sought to construct a simple aggregate or summary statistic to capture the elements which constitute human development.  Current measures have emerged as result of the dissatisfaction with previous aggregate measures. Per capita GDP has long been, and continues to be used as a measure of the economic welfare of the citizens of a country. However, efficiency of this measure of economic welfare is limited by its exclusion of

Susbistence production due to the dependence of national accounting concepts on market transactions

Informal sector activities; and

Unpaid household services

In addition, some components of the national economic aggregate are difficult to measure – for example, consumption expenditure. These difficulties have turned attention to more inclusive measures, such as the Basic Needs Index [ILO 1976, IFAD 1993], the Physical Quality of Life Index [Morris et al 1979], and the Human Development and Human Poverty Indices [Human Development Report 1997]. The Human Development and Poverty Indices seek to measure the level of human development relative to other countries, but in each case there are concentrated efforts to increase the number of social variables measured – such as health, education, and longevity, and the degree and extent of the deprivation in these areas.

These measures represent a significant improvement over previous ones. They are however frequently limited by the choice of components, the weights ascribed to particular components, the methods of estimation used, and the aggregation rules employed.  These problems are further

Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000

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