Connect to share and comment

Chile's Human Development: Literacy vs. Income Distribution

The Chilean media proudly flashed headlines this morning announcing that Chile was ranked first place for well-being in Latin America, according to the United Nations Human Development Report 2009.

Chile is 44 on a list of 182 countries covered in the report, followed in Latin America by Antigua and Barbuda (47), Argentina (49), Uruguay (50) and Cuba (51).

The UNDP report includes a Human Development Index (HDI) with indicators (from 2007, before the economic crisis) of life expectancy, literacy, school enrollment, poverty levels and GDP per capita. A summary index combining these indicators provides the country ranking of the population’s well-being.

The top three ranked countries are Norway, Australia and Iceland, in that order. The last three are Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

But at the same time today, one of Chile’s main newspapers, El Mercurio, topped its front page with this headline: “U.N. report reveals an unequal, fenced in Santiago in chaotic expansion.” It was referring to another United Nations report to be released today, the Global Report on Human Settlements 2009, of U.N. Habitat.

This report criticizes the stark inequality in income distribution, the uncontrolled urban expansion of Santiago, the capital, and how many upper-income communities are fencing in their properties for fear of delinquency.

So are Chileans faring well or not? Do we have the best living conditions in the region? Where does the high literacy rate stand compared to Chile’s disastrous income distribution?

This is what some readers of the daily La Tercera had to say in comments to the news of the UNDP report:

“These rankings are useless if they don’t consider income distribution. Having per capita income of $14,000 means nothing in itself, if 80 percent of the population has to survive with $600.”

“Although at a macro level we are doing well, reality at the micro level is staggering. Or, as someone said, there are three types of lies: merciful lies, big lies and statistics.”

“Surely the people who did this study went for a physical exam at one of our public hospitals, or took a walk at midnight in the outskirts of Santiago, studied in municipal schools or fenced in their passages.”

One reader simply asked himself: “What kind of weed did they smoke?”