For the first time Poland has been classified by the United Nations as 'Very High Development' country - the first world league. In 2010 Human Development Index report, published on Thursday, Poland is ranked 41st, the second from the end of the list of most developed societies. Thus, Poland is nearly the poorest among the richest countries in the world, or to say it a bit more precisely: the least developed of the most developed ones.
What is Human Development Index?
The HDI is one of the most important indicators of national development. Why? In general we use GDP and GDP per capita to compare economics of countries in question. However, it does not show the quality of living there, and in reality such comparisons are flawed. Even rich countries with high GDP can vary in such aspects of life as: availability and quality of education and health care, or life expectancy. These factors, though not directly translated into numeric value of GDP, have a major (if not greater) impact on quality of life. The HDI takes into account all these aspects, not just economic ones.
Therefore, for 20 years now HDI is regarded as one of the most important measures of the level of development. This system was created in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, and since 1993 is used by the United Nations for the purposes of international comparisons, according to annual reports by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is worthwhile to add that despite its popularity and trustworthiness, HDI is considered to be less reliable than another one factor, called Human Poverty Index. HPI additionally takes into account: degree of poverty, long-term unemployment and the level of intellectual development (eg. illiteracy levels).
Poland in 2010 Human Development Index report
In this year's ranking of 192 is classified 169 countries worldwide. 42 of them were included into the group of most developed countries (table comes from Wikipedia):
Poland lands 41st within 'Very high human development' group, just below Portugal, a country with decades of democracy, which seems not to make use of the fact of belonging to the European Union (Portugal is a member of the EU for 24 years, Poland for 6 years). From the region of Central and Eastern Europe, where Poland belongs, Czech Republic traditionally fares better, being 28th. Also Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia and Hungary are ranked higher. Others: Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria are classified in the group of 'High human development'.
Worryingly Poland as the only one of the above has not changed its position since the previous rating (all other above-mentioned countries of Central Europe improved their score). Poland's score are lowered by a relatively low level of GDP per capita (lower than in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia). If you do not take GDP into account and make comparison only with non-economical factors of human development, the value of Polish HDI would be similar to Singapore or Austria.
Since 1970, the standard of living has increased in all countries except Zimbabwe, Congo and Zambia. Developing countries such as Poland, are chasing 'the West' fast, but still there's a great distance. The fastest growing standard of living is in China, Indonesia, India and Persian Gulf countries. Many countries in Africa had a huge progress, but the continent is still the poorest. Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union have been stuck at their level of development and did not return to one before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The biggest improvement over last year's report was in New Zealand, South Korea, Germany, Israel, Slovakia and Romania, while the greatest decrease flow to Iceland, Luxembourg, Austria, Kuwait and Venezuela. The situation of the United States has significantly improved (location +9), while Canada's ranking decreased.
UN also compared the level of life satisfaction. Here, Poles are similar to other wealthy countries. Overall very satisfied with their life (80-90%), work, and health. The majority (67%) is also satisfied with the material standard of living, although in this respect Poles clearly stand out from the richer Western Europe.
Ranking always arises with some delay because of the HDI 2010 is based on data from 2008.