Cambodia has region’s fastest growth rate in human development

Mar 22, 2017

Phnom Penh — Across East Asia and the Pacific, Cambodia has shown the highest increase rate of Human Development Index (HDI) in 2015, showing that the country’s health, education and standard of living have improved from 1990 when its HDI was first measured.

From 1990 to 2015, Cambodia’s annual HDI growth rate of 1.84% has outpaced the average in East Asia and the Pacific, currently at 1.35%, making it among the top seven countries in the world with the fastest HDI growth rate.

These are the latest findings in the Global Human Development Report 2016, launched globally on 21 March in Sweden, and published annually by the United Nations Development Programme.

This year’s theme espouses “Human Development for Everyone,” responding to the report results that despite the significant improvements in the global average human development, the most marginalized people are still being left behind in global development priorities.

According to the report, Cambodia’s 2015 HDI value of 0.563 showed a 57% increase from 0.357 in 1990.

However, this still falls below the 0.631 average for countries in the medium human development group and below the 0.721 average for countries in East Asia and the Pacific.

The county’s HDI ranking in 2015 is 143 out of 188 countries, putting it at the medium human development group along with Lao People’s Democratic Republic with an HDI ranking of 138 and Myanmar at 145.

More than improvements in HDI, Cambodia has also shown progress in reducing poverty, when measured in multidimensional terms. Unlike income poverty, the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) takes into account deprivations in health, education and living standards, at the household level.  

Cambodia’s MPI decreased from 0.211 in 2011 to 0.150 in 2014 while the headcount ratio of people in multi-dimensional poverty declined from 46.8% to 33.8% within the same period.

From 1995 to 2015, Cambodia’s life expectancy at birth increased by 15.2 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.0 years, its expected years of schooling increased by 4.2 years and its GNI per capita increased by about 277.9%.

With such notable gains, Cambodia still faces challenges in reducing poverty and inequality. There is still a need to ensure that human development is equitably distributed and that women in particular are included.

“We celebrate the gains that the country has achieved, but we are looking ahead at strategic ways in addressing the remaining challenges that impede human development,” says Nick Beresford, country director of UNDP in Cambodia.

“The crux of UNDP’s work in Cambodia is that no one gets left behind,” added Mr. Beresford. “We continue to support the Royal Government of Cambodia in achieving their Sustainable Development Goals.

“We want to ensure that over the years, more and more Cambodians experience significant changes in their well-being. And that human development truly is for everyone,” he said.


ABOUT THIS REPORT: The Human Development Report is an editorially independent publication of the United Nations Development Programme. For free downloads of the 2016 Human Development Report, plus additional reference materials on its indices, please visit:   

2016 Human Development Report

Full press package in all UN official languages

Other key findings on Cambodia from the 2016 report:

1.       Even as individuals are already living above the income poverty line, they may still suffer deprivations in other aspects because poverty is not only measured in terms of lack of income.

1. 1.      Households can be considered multi-dimensionally poor when deprivations in health, education and living standards are factored in. While Cambodia’s income poverty headcount is at 13.5% of the population, the multidimensional poverty headcount is 31.6% higher than income poverty.

1.2.       Households in this category therefore experience further setbacks when socio-economic shocks occur such as illness or a decline in household income due to job loss, for instance. Apart from the lack of income to sustain daily needs, the multidimensionally poor are further deprived of the ability to access health care or keep their children in school, making it even more difficult for them to either bounce back or be lifted out of poverty.

2.         There is a need to reduce the gap between male and female achievements. Cambodia’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) or the loss in human development due to inequality between female and male achievements in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity, ranks the country 112 out of 159 countries measured for this index.

2.1.         When it comes to educational attainment, the ratio between female to male is roughly 1:2, where only 13.2% of adult women have reached at least secondary education compared to 26.1% of their male counterparts. Meanwhile, the rate of female participation in the labour market is lower at 75.5% compared to 86.7% among men.

2.2.       Cambodia’s adolescent birth rate is almost twice as high as the average among countries in East Asia and the Pacific — 51.6 births per 1,000 women of ages 15-19, and 23.1 births per 1,000 women, respectively. In addition, for every 100,000 live births, 161 women in Cambodia die from pregnancy related causes, slightly lower than Lao PDR’s (197) and Myanmar’s (178).

3.    On a positive note, Cambodia’s share of female parliamentarians (19%) is nearly at par with the average in East Asia and the Pacific (19.6%) and close to the global average (22%).



UNDP Cambodia Contact:

Lang Sok
Communications Analyst

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