Analysis of Human Development Index for South Africa

The UN’s Human Development Index is an attempt to quantify quality of life. Three measures are used to create a single human development score:

  • Health (life expectancy)
  • Education (adult literacy)
  • Wealth (GDP per capita)

Using only three variables makes comparison possible, but it does mean that the HDI is pretty crude.

It still makes interesting reading.

The latest report (with data for 2007) has just been released. Norway comes out on top followed closely by Australia.

South Africa comes in at 129th of the 183 countries (some really bad places like Somalia and Zimbabwe don’t have enough data to be on the list at all).


I was particularly interested in the trends over time. South Africa has gained ground since 1980 but has fallen off since a peak in 1990.


Looking at each of the components in HDI it becomes clear that life expectancy is hurting South Africa’s HDI score. AIDS is really holding us back. GDP per capita has also been pretty flat.


How has South Africa done relative to similar countries? Let’s compare SA to the 26 countries with the closest HDI scores back in 2000.

Not pretty. As you can see we’ve been in free fall. We went from the middle of this little group to stone last!


What about similar countries by geography? Let’s compare SA to our regional neighbors. Clearly our region is struggling, but SA has still lost two places!


  • Sifiso Nkosi

    This analysis shows shocking correlation between road maintanance backlog and the budget that the South African government puts on road maintantance. Then where does al the Toll fees go?

  • Hayley Walters

    Thanks sooo much for this!!! I’m doing a reasearch project on South Africa and this helped me so much! You’re a grade saver!