The First Yemeni Human Development Report Launched [Archives:1999/30/Reportage]
By: Ismail Al-Ghabiry
The first Yemeni Human Development Report, which seeks to disseminate and consolidate the concept of human development in Yemen, will certainly be useful to the Yemeni Government and to the economic and social planners in the country through its theoretical and conceptual outlook and its prognosis of the situation, supported by empirical studies and official statistics thereof. The most difficult problem encountered in the preparation of the report lies in the lack of and dearth in statistics and data, in some areas, or inaccuracy and inconsistency in others. Moreover, this has often led to reliance on induction and personal estimation of some indices, as exhibited in the Technical Notes of the report. This gives a chance to point out to those in charge of statistics in the country the importance of such figures and data without which it would be difficult to formulate policies and draw plans, especially at this critical stage of human history when we bid farewell to the twentieth century.
Contents of the Report
The report contains seven chapters. The first chapter deals with conclusions reached by the debates on the concept of human development and its measurement. It also includes discussions of the relation between human development and other concepts such as sustainable economic development, basic human needs of the welfare state, development of human resources, and equality and democracy. This chapter shows that the concept of human development has benefited greatly from these concepts, outlooks and strategies. In other words, it has evolved essentially through these concepts and strategies. The chapter comes to the conclusion that the concept of human development looks at development in a new perspective, one that is more humane and more comprehensive in outlook when compared to previous outlooks and concepts.
In the Second chapter, the focus is on presenting the most recent figures on population and manpower. The chapter is divided into two parts. The first part, addresses change in trends in the size and growth of the population of Yemen. It is divided into four sections. The first section reviews and analyzes the main indices related to population in terms of size, growth, characteristics, age distribution and gender structure. Some prominent indicators reflect the following:
– The population of Yemen reached 15.8 million in 1994 as compared to 12.2 million in 1988 with a growth rate of 3.7% for the period. Population size is doubling every 19 years, according to these figures.
The fourth and final section of this part analyzes the emigration of Yemenis abroad, while at the same time not ignoring the issue of returnees, particularly that which occurred during the Second Gulf Crisis (1990 – 1991). It shows that the number of Yemeni emigrants had reached 1.5 million prior to 1990, most of whom settled in the neighboring oil states, especially Saudi Arabia. Their remittances had contributed significantly to the improvement of the living standards of their families at home, and generally boosted Yemen’s economy. However, as a result of the Second Gulf Crisis, Yemen became witness to one of the largest influxes of returning expatriates. The number of those suddenly returning from the Gulf States within a short period of time was estimated at 800,000, most of who came from Saudi Arabia. This resulted in many adverse effects and several problems for both the returnees and the national economy.
The second part of this chapter, which focuses on the labor market, is divided into three main sections. The first of these provides an analysis of the labor force in terms of size, characteristics and participation. It shows that the labor force in 1998 reached 4,364 thousands compared to 3,553 thousands in 1994, that is an average annual increase of 5% which exceeds the population growth rate. Participation rate in the labor force constituted 24.4% of the total population in 1994, while reaching 37.6% of the total population over 10 years of age, ranging between 29.0% and 7.6% for males and females, respectively. This reflects an obviously lower percentage of women’s participation in the labor force and also the insignificant share taken up by child labor (10 – 14 years old).
Finally this section discusses the characteristics of the labor force among which is the high illiteracy rate where 80.3% of the total working labor in 1994 is either illiterate or only able to read and write.
The second section explores the characteristics of the labor market and the problems of employment, whereas the third and final section looks into unemployment in terms of size, causes and characteristics of the unemployed. There were 325,000 people unemployed in 1994, a percentage of 9.1% of the manpower. The illiterates make the highest rate of unemployment rate in urban areas which is higher (11.5%) than that in rural areas (8.4%), while it doubles among females compared to males. In this respect, the report concludes that unemployment is one of the major economic and social problems facing the Yemeni society.
The third chapter comprises three parts, which deal with economic growth, public expenditures and poverty respectively. The first part is divided into three main sections, discussing the economic conditions of the nineties, the Economic Reform Program and an assessment of this program. The first section concludes that there was a slowdown in the path of economic growth in the country, especially during the period 1990-95. The economy could not increase nor even maintain the level of personal income, especially in light of the high rate of population growth.
The third section comes to the conclusion that the Economic, Financial and Administrative Reform Program, which went into effect in March 1995, has accomplished its objectives with respect to the financial, monetary, pricing, balance of payments and foreign currency reserve indices. Among its results is a budget deficit reduction, suppressing public expenditures, controlling inflation, encouraging improvement in external debt, and stability of the floating exchange rate. However, the program has its negative effects on the social aspects and the livelihood of the people, especially the low-income earners and the poor.
The part dealing with public expenditures and human development comprises three sections. The first provides analysis of public expenditures in accordance with the economic and social priorities, and concludes with a discussion of the low expenditures on social services. While the share of the health sector stood at 4% of total public expenditures (1% of the GDP), the share of education declined from 19% of 16% over the last two years. The second section is concerned with human priority index, showing that the slow progress of the index from 1990-94 was not sustainable due to the financial imbalances suffered by the economy.
The third part of this chapter takes up the issue of poverty. It is a chronic socio-economic problem confronting the Yemen people. The definition of poverty adopted in the report is not confined to deprivation from consuming goods and service. It also includes deprivation from choice and participation. With this definition, the measurement of poverty extends to include aspects of education, health, political empowerment and the practice of human rights, etc. This part overviews the historical background of poverty in Yemen before the sixties and up to the reunification of the country in 1990. It also identifies the structural determinants of poverty in Yemen represented in the scarcity of natural resources, structural economic shortcomings, and the temporary determinants of poverty which resulted from the economic crisis during the first half of the nineties and from the Economic Reform Program. These two led to the creation of factors such as the decline of average real income, widespread unemployment and lifting of subsidies from basic goods and services, all leading to further burdens on the poor.
The second part of this chapter continues to show the levels of poverty existing in Yemen from 1992 to 1998, pointing to three most important aspects. The first reviews the measurement and indices of poverty in Yemen used in the report, which is a measurement based on individual and household consumption expenditures. The second aspect critiques the results of the World Bank study on poverty indices and levels in Yemen 1992. The study has concluded that 2.6 million Yemenis live below the poverty line, while about 1.5 million suffer from absolute poverty.
The fourth and final section addresses the poverty alleviation programs and policies in Yemen. In this respect, the report states that the Yemeni Government has, especially since the Economic Reform Program, turned towards carrying out a number of programs to fight poverty, or at least mitigate its effects through a number of measures, such as: the Social Welfare Fund, the Social Fund for Development, the Public Works Project, and the Social Increments for Government and Public and Mixed Sector employees.
Notwithstanding the need for the establishment of social mechanisms to compensate the poor and low income groups suffering from adverse effects brought by the Economic Reform Policies, they are seen as steps in the right direction to counteract such effects. However, their role is still limited, and yet it is too early to assess their impact on the alleviation of poverty.
The fourth chapter of the report goes on to show, in figures, the most up to date picture of human development in relation to education. Yemen’s educational situation is discussed quantitatively and qualitatively, including the areas of basic, secondary, vocational and technical education as well as higher education. It does not overlook private sector investment in the sector, especially in basic and secondary levels. This chapter is divided into five sections, the first one deals with illiteracy and assesses its programs. In this regard, the report mentions that despite considerable efforts, illiteracy rate remained high at 56% in 1994. Among males the rate in 43.3%, whereas among females it rises to 82.9%. It should be noted that the general illiteracy rate decline during the period 1988-94 from 67% to 56%. The report confirms that the outcome of the literacy programs is still rather limited due to a number of reasons.
The fifth chapter analyzes the situation of health care services, and the country’s general health conditions, supported by the latest official figures on health. It focuses on the foundations of the health care services, in terms of institutions, staffing, health system and medicine. On the other hand, the chapter assesses the general health conditions of the population in the areas of immunization, maternity care, infant mortality, water and sanitation…. etc.
The sixth chapter deals with the environment, in view of its direct link with human development. Sustainable development means meeting the needs of the present generation without jeopardizing the capabilities and opportunities of future generations. The first of the four section contained in this chapter discusses the direct link between the environment and both human development and population. It explains how environment protection and development are integrated elements, and are closely tied in terms of their effect on each other. Moreover, the environment is not an economic sector, but a dynamic dimension of cross-sectoral development. The chapter confirms the close relationship between the environment and population based on the fact that population growth affects the environment in several respects, such as increasing the burden on the available natural resources, water shortages, sanitation drainage, pollution resulting from industry, energy and transportation. It also draws attention to the growing population of Yemen at the rate of 3.7% per annum, which will have an adverse effect on development efforts, and will place additional burden on environment protection measures, especially in the light of the current economic conditions of the country.
The seventh and final chapter discusses and analyzes an important topic, the transformation of a civil society and democracy. The significance of the topic stems from two factors, the first being the participation of people in development, an issues linked with the concept and context of human development. The second factor shows how Yemen, after reunification in 1990, witnessed confirmation and transformation in some crucial sectors that are linked to the crux of human development, such as democracy, human rights and civil liberty. The chapter is divided into tow sections. The first relates to the definition of the civil society and the factors leading to its appearance in Yemen, its institutions, and its relationship with the tribe and the role of law in the society. It also points out the importance of local governance (centralization and decentralization) in Yemen, and discusses the nature of the current political and social system and human rights.