UN Says 2 Billion People Have Improved Living Standards

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
December 14, 2015 Updated: December 14, 2015

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—The United Nations says that 2 billion people have lifted themselves out of low human development in the last 25 years.

The Human Development Index by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) calls for equitable and decent work for all. The report was launched on Monday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

“Work … is crucial for human progress,” the report said. “Of the world’s 7.3 billion people, 3.2 billion are in jobs, and many others engage in unpaid care, creative and voluntary work or prepare themselves as future workers. Fast technological progress, deepening globalization, aging societies and environmental challenges are rapidly transforming what work means today and how it is performed.”

Decent work contributes to both the richness of economies and the richness of human lives, said UNDP administrator Helen Clark. “All countries need to respond to the challenges in the new world of work and seize opportunities to improve lives and livelihoods,” said Clark.

According to the UN, 830 million people are now classified as working poor who live less than $2 a day. Over 200 million people, including 74 million youths, are also considered unemployed, while 21 million people are currently in forced labor.

“Human progress will accelerate when everyone who wants to work has the opportunity to do so under decent circumstances. Yet in many countries, people are often excluded from paid work, or are paid less than others for doing work of the same value,”said the report’s lead author Selim Jahan.

Sub- Saharan Africa has been cited as a region where significant gains have been made in human development. The report, however, cautioned that there is an urgent need to address wide inequalities and gaps in opportunities.

“The region has experienced the fastest annual growth rates in the Human Development Index among all regions,” said Jahan, adding that twelve African countries are in the high or medium human development group. “However sub-Saharan Africa on average remains in the low human development category. … But yet, Sub-Saharan Africa has been particularly innovative in harnessing modern technology for financial activities. Mobile phone and internet-based economic activities are likely to continue expanding.”

The report detailed that while women carry out 52 percent of all global work, glaring inequalities in the distribution of work remain.

The choice to focus on work in this report was made because the subject has changed so much recently, the head of UNDP, Helen Clark, told The Associated Press after the launch of the report in Addis Ababa.

“There are so many aspects to the work issue in the major global agenda now,” Clark said. “Part of this is the migration challenge. Migration is part of the human story. Europe needs migrants and Africa needs remittances. There are natural fits here that all need to understand.”