Marty Harris is an assistant digital editor at the Lowy Institute.

Is economic growth in emerging economies being matched by advances in human development?

Former New Zealand prime minister and current UN Development Programme head Helen Clark thinks so. In a speech in Sydney last week she said:

These trends in emerging economies are contributing to a process of convergence in levels of human development between North and South – reflecting the faster growth in GDP per capita and the increased health and education provision in countries of the South. 

The following graph, based on data from the 2013 Human Development Report, tracks HDI in a smattering of countries (and Sub-Saharan Africa).

The increase in HDI in South Korea and China is particularly striking. But HDI growth in both South Asia and 'East Asia and the Pacific' has grown annually at about twice the world average since 1980. Noteworthy too is the up-tick in HDI results for Sub-Saharan Africa since 2005, albeit from very low levels.