Category Archives: Measuring oppression and exploitation



The Human Development Index (HDI) and the Inequality adjusted HDI

The approach adopted in the Human Development Report (HDR) is that Human development is a process of enlarging people’s choices. The most critical ones are to lead a long and healthy life, to be educated and to enjoy a decent standard of living. (Additional choices include political freedom, guaranteed human rights and self-respect). Development consists of the expansion of individuals’ capabilities or freedoms.  This approach focuses on the essential reasons why we are undertaking something, rather than the means to get there. The goal is not increasing GDP, the goal is obtaining better lives, and increasing GDP is a means, and not the end.  Levels of human development are not just dependent on income; there can be high levels of human development at modest income levels and poor levels of human development at high income levels. approach operationalized in the HDI. Each year the HDR discusses these capabilities and their achievement, and it is the approach of the HDI as well.

The Human Development Index This index is an index of three “capabilities.”  These capabilities are positive aspects of human life. The first is a long and healthy life, the second is knowledge, the third is a decent standard of living, which serves as a proxy/ability to obtain other capabilities such as nutrition.  To construct an index of these capablities, the HDI “identifies a few observable achieved functionings to capture broader capabilities (for instance, in the HDI, having the option to live a long and healthy life is associated with the indicator of life expectancy at birth)” (HDR 2019 p. 34). Thus, this index focuses on the essential reasons why we are undertaking something, rather than the means to get there. The goal is not increasing GDP, the goal is obtaining better lives, and increasing GDP is a means, and not the end.

Construction of the index.  The three dimensions and their indicators are : long and healthy life (life expectancy at birth); knowledge (average of expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling) and a decent standard of living (Gross National Income per capita, adjusted for purchasing power parity).  All are adjusted to form an index.  The range for life expectancy is taken to be from 20 years to 85 years; the range for expected years of schooling is from 0 to 18 years; the range for mean years of schooling is from 0 to 15; the range for income is $100 to $75,000.  The dimension indexes are calculated as actual value-minimum value/maximum value – minimum value. (See Technical Notes HDR 2016)

Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI)

The HDI is calculated using country averages.  However this is the average and of course there is a range of values within each country. The IHDI combines a country’s average achievements in health, education and income with how those achievements are distributed among country’s population by “discounting” each dimension’s average value according to its level of inequality. Thus, the IHDI is distribution-sensitive average level of human development. Two countries with different distributions of achievements can have the same average HDI value. Under perfect equality the IHDI is equal to the HDI, but falls below the HDI when inequality rises. The difference between the IHDI and HDI is the human development cost of inequality, also termed – the overall loss to human development due to inequality. The IHDI allows a direct link to inequalities in the three dimensions of the index.


Cover of The Hidden Wealth of Nations Credit: University of Chicago Press

The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The scourge of tax havens by Gabriel Zucman

Trillions of dollars have sloshed into offshore tax havens. Here’s how to get it back David Scharfenberg Boston Globe January 20, 2018

See this page The Hidden Wealth of Nations for further book reviews and informative slide presentations by Zucman.

Cover of The Hidden Wealth of Nations Credit: University of Chicago Press

Image: The U.S. has fallen below its traditional democratic peers.

Freedom in the World 2020 finds established democracies are in decline

Freedom House March 4, 2020. Despite mass protests in every region, world suffers 14th consecutive year of deterioration in political rights and civil liberties.

Democracy is under assault around the globe, and the effects are evident not just in authoritarian states like China, Russia, and Iran, but also in countries with a long track record of upholding basic rights and freedoms. While protest movements in every region have illustrated widespread popular demand for better governance, they have yet to reverse the overall pattern of declining freedom, according to Freedom in the World 2020, the latest edition of the annual country-by-country assessment of political rights and civil liberties, released today by Freedom House.

Countries that suffered setbacks in 2019 outnumbered those making gains by nearly two to one, marking the 14th consecutive year of deterioration in global freedom. During this period, 25 of the world’s 41 established democracies experienced net losses.

The report also found an alarming global erosion in governments’ commitment to pluralism, a defining feature of liberal democracy. Ethnic, religious, and other minority groups have borne the brunt of recent state abuses in both democracies and authoritarian countries. Left unchecked, such violations threaten the freedom of entire societies.

Continue reading
Image: How regions scored in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index Credit: Transparency International

Corruption Perceptions Index 2019: anti-corruption efforts are stagnating worldwide

Transparency International January 23, 2020

More than two-thirds of countries – along with many of the world’s most advanced economies – are stagnating or showing signs of backsliding in their anti-corruption efforts, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released today by Transparency International.

Countries in which elections and political party financing are open to undue influence from vested interests are less able to combat corruption, analysis of the results finds.

“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.”

CPI Highlights

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives. It uses a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 22 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia, Greece and Guyana. Twenty-one have significantly declined, including Australia, Canada and Nicaragua.

Our research shows several of the most advanced economies cannot afford to be complacent if they are to keep up their anti-corruption momentum. Four G7 countries score lower than last year: Canada (-4), France (-3), the UK (-3) and the US (-2). Germany and Japan have seen no improvement, while Italy gained one point.

Continue reading
Secrecy scores by country. Credit: Tax Justice Network

Financial Secrecy Index 2020

Tax Justice Network February 18, 2020

The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight.

The Financial Secrecy Index complements our Corporate Tax Haven Index, which ranks the world’s most important tax havens for multinational companies.

Shining light into dark places

An estimated US$21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world. Secrecy jurisdictions – a term we often use as an alternative to the more widely used term tax havens – use secrecy to attract illicit and illegitimate or abusive financial flows.

Illicit cross-border financial flows have been estimated at US$1-1.6 trillion per year, dwarfing the US$135 billion or so in global foreign aid. Since the 1970s, African countries alone have lost over US$1 trillion in capital flight, while combined external debts are less than US$200 billion. So Africa is a major net creditor to the world – but its assets are in the hands of a wealthy elite, protected by offshore secrecy; while its debts are shouldered by broad African populations.

Continue reading
Human Development Report 2019 Credit: UNDP

Human Development Report: new inequalities must be addressed

United Nations Development Program December 9, 2019. The demonstrations sweeping across the world today signal that, despite unprecedented progress against poverty, hunger and disease, many societies are not working as they should.

The connecting thread, argues a new report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), is inequality.“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 isnot beyond solutions,” says UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner.

The 2019 Human Development Report (HDR), entitled “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st Century,” says that just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing for millions of people, the necessities to thrive have evolved.

A new generation of inequalities is opening up, around education, and around technology and climate change — two seismic shifts that, unchecked, could trigger a ‘new great divergence’ in society of the kind not seen since the Industrial Revolution, according to the report. In countries with very high human development, for example, subscriptions to fixed broadband are growing 15 times faster and the proportion of adults with tertiary education is growing more than six times faster than in countries with low human development.

Continue reading