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Eritrean Human Development Index

Eritrean Human development index (HDI)

I.  Introduction

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development - a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

Access to knowledge is measured by i) mean years of schooling for the adult population, which is the average number of years of education received in a lifetime by people aged 25 years and older and ii) expected years of schooling for children of school-entrance age, which is the total number of years of schooling a child of school-entrance age can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrollment rates stay the same through the child’s life.  Standard of living is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita expressed in constant 2005 international dollars converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates. (Refer to HDI Report 2013 by UNDP)

The method of calculating mean years of schooling (MYS) is based on the distribution of the population by age group and the highest level of education attained in a given year and time series data with the official duration of each level of education.  For each group, the proportion that attained a given level of education is multiplied by the official duration of that level.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) delivers annual human development reports every year.  The HDI ranks human wellbeing by measuring inequality in education, life expectancy, and income.  The top and the bottom of the ranking remain unchanged: on the top step Norway (0.944), Australia (0935), and Switzerland (0930) and on the bottom we have Eritrea (0.391), Central Africa Republic (0.350) and Niger (0.348).

The HDI is based primarily on international data from the United Nations Populations Division; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s  (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (UIS); and the World Bank.

The HDI report categorizes the countries into four human development groups:

II. Eritrean Policy of Education

The Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) considers education as a key to national development.  Education for all (EFA) was pursued in post independence period with renewed vigor by spearing it to all parts of the country.

The 2010 National Education Policy underlined that the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) commitment on reaching the unreached and the goal for creating a literate society that promote and facilitate good quality education to all children and at all levels.  It called for the provision of free and compulsory basic education; the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction at the elementary level; and the expansion of secondary and tertiary education opportunities was the most essential components of the education system.  These include the Complementary Elementary Education (CEE) for children who fail to enroll into elementary school at the right age, education for pastoral communities (ECD), and adult literacy.

The MoE has developed ECD policy to ensure early childhood care and education (ECCE) services to be equitably distributed in Eritrea.  In the years from 2000/01 to 2012/13, the number of elementary grade-one entrants who attended ECCE increased from 16.5% to 30.6%.

The successful development of a region is determined by the quality of human resources. Education is one way of improving the quality of human resources. Therefore, improving the quality of education must be pursued, beginning with opening greater opportunities for residents to education, to improving the quality and quantity of educational facilities and infrastructure. To find out how many people take advantage of educational facilities can be seen from the percentage of the population according to school enrollment. To see the participation of schools in an area commonly known as multiple indicators to find out, among other things: School Participation Rate (APS), the gross enrollment rate (GER), and the enrollment rate (NER).

Gross enrollment rate (GER) is the percentage of the population who were at school at a level of education (regardless of age) to the number of school-age population corresponding to the level of education.

GER is used to measure the success of the education development program organized in order to expand opportunities for people to get an education.  GER is the simplest indicator to measure the absorption of the school age population in each education level.  GER values can be over 100%.  This is because the population of students who attend school in an education covers children aged beyond school age education is concerned.

Enrollment rate (NER) is the percentage of school-age children in the group who were at school at a certain level of education in accordance with the age of the total number of children in the school age group when GER is used to determine how many school-age children, who are able to take advantage of educational facilities at a given level of education regardless of how old it is, the enrollment rate (NER) measures the proportion of children who go to school on time.

The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) and net enrollment ratio (NER)  values for Eritrea’s ECCE were recorded as 8.6% (boys 8.7%, girls 8.5%) and 6.1% (boys 6.2%, girls 6.1%) in 2000/01 versus the 28.0% (boys 27.6%, girls 28.3%) and 16.8% (boys 16.6%, girls 17.0%) in 2012/13.

As per the article by Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion on 23 September 2015, Eritrea has prioritized education as a key pillar within its national policy and broader framework for development, socio-economic growth, and poverty alleviation.  The paper mentioned that at independence, the country’s literacy rates (across all ages) were quite low, particularly for girls and women, and overall enrollment rates (within primary levels) hovered around 30 percent.  Education was made compulsory, for both girls and boys, and the country also proceeded to build hundreds of schools in both rural and urban areas.

The paper asserted  that the country allocated 8-10% of its national budget and hence primary enrollment rates are now approximately 90 percent while both gender disparity and adult literacy have dramatically improved.  The country’s focus on rapid improvement on primary education to share parallel with South Korea.  The number of students enrolled in higher education dramatically rose from between 3,500-5,000 to nearly 18,000 today.  It concluded that Eritrea has made considerable, tangible improvements in education throughout the country and to continue to invest within education across all levels further expanding quantity and enhancing quality.

III.  Eritrea’s Demography:

There is no demographic statistics provided by the Eritrean Government per se.  In line with this, also, there are no statistics provided on population, education and other social variables by the National Statistics and Evaluation Office.  Hence, it becomes a sine qua non to look into other source of information.  Such data was only available, on UN organizations like UNDP and UNESCO, World Bank and CIA.  These data are mainly estimates and analyses based on these estimates cannot give right results.  This is evidenced in the HDI reports of various years for the country.

As of 18 December 2015 (country, Eritrea’s total population is estimated to be 6,742,868.  Out of this, 3,323,269 (49.3) are male and 3,419,599 (50.7%) female.   The estimates on the population made by the above mentioned website and are adjusted every second and minute.

The Eritrean age structure as of January 2015, showed the following details.

The CIA - the world factbook - estimates the Eritrean urban population to be 22.6% of the total population in 2015.  This figure is also reflected in

As shown in the below ethno-demographic map, population is concentrated in Tigrigna-Tigre area (85%).

It can be deduced from this fact that the possibility of high enrollment in school and the provision of educational services to be accessed within a possible range of area to be realistic.  This is because the urbanization effect is much higher here as the main cities, towns and big villages are located in these areas.

The following data is taken from

List of Cities in Eritrea

* There are different population annual growth rates for Eritrea: 2.3% (, 3.2% ( and, 2.21% ( and, and 2.51% (   * The average of these rates is 2.555 and is used for the 2015 estimates.

Hence, the estimated 2015 population of 1,457,852 comprised 21.6% of the 6,742,868.  
This is close to the estimate of 22.6% or urban population of Eritrea as reported by CIA.
There are other settlements, as per the above mentioned data, which are, Adi Tekelezan, Afabet, Areza, Badme, Bisha, Debaysima, Digsa, Emba Derho, Felhit, Filfil, Hazega, Kudo-Felasi, Matara, Mai Mine, Mersa Gulbub, Mersa Teklay, Om Hajer, Per Tokar, Quatit, Rehayta, Sebderat, Tserona, Tsazega, Zula, and Zahgir.  The population of these semi towns would naturally increase the population with access to education as do the urban population.

The purpose of presenting the above information on population and cities and towns is to at least make a fair guess on the provision of schooling.  Even the big villages are covered by educational facilities.  Hence, it is logical to conclude that the wide spectrum of the Eritrean population to have educational facilities provided and thus the larger part of the Eritrean people to have enjoyed educational services.  This can be augmented by the statistics of UNESCO.  (emphasis added)

The information provided by UNESCO’s national education profile for Eritrea in 2014 for literacy rate among youth and adult population was as follows and the comparison to the low income countries was also provided by the same United Nations organization.

Eritrea - Age 15-24               91.0%              Age 15+      70.5%
Low income countries          73.5 %                                 58.5%

Hence, this achievement of illiteracy rate can give us a clue to the provision of education to wider spectrum of the population in Eritrea as compared to low income countries.

IV. The Human Development Index (HDI) of Eritrea

The HDI of Eritrea, as evidenced in the different annual reports, fall in the low HDI group in general and as one of the last ranking countries in particular.  The following scenario shows the various years of HDI values for Eritrea.

UNDP Briefing note for 2015 HDR for Eritrea

The amazing thing is that the HDI for 2005 is higher than 2010 and 2011.  The data reported for Eritrea for year 2012 is not completely at par with the above.  Please see the below and you will notice the differences in all the parameters, i.e., 4.6 against 4.1.

The Report of the 2012, as shown in the above table, puts on record that Eritrea’s HDI value for 2012 is 0.351—in the low human development category—positioning the country at 181 out of 187 countries and territories. Between 2010 and 2012, Eritrea’s HDI value increased from 0.342 to 0.351, an increase of 3 percent or average annual increase of about 1.3 percent.

The rank of Eritrea’s HDI for 2011, based on data available in 2012 and methods used in 2012, was 182 out of 187 countries. In the 2011 HDR, Eritrea was ranked 177 out of 187 countries. However, it is misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports, because the underlying data and methods have changed. Why data change is not understood!!  If the figures used in computation of the HDR are based on wrong or for that matter fictitious figures, then anomalies would result and thus causing problem of consistency.  This phenomenon is common in the HDI reports.   Sound statistics data should be used so that appropriate HDR can be drawn and reported.

Besides this, the expected years of schooling for 2005  (4.7) is higher than the years for 2010 to 2014 (4.1).  Also, the expected years of schooling and the Mean Years of Schooling are the same from 2010 to 2014 without any change despite the coverage of education increased as tried to discuss in the foregoing part of this paper.

The life expectancy as per the latest World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to be 67 in comparison to the African life expectancies of 52 and global average of 66 years of age.  This is by comparison higher to the data shown in the above table.

The explanatory note on 2013 HDR for Eritrea showed completely different figure.  The expected years of schooling was 5.4 for 2005 and 4.6 for years 2010 to 2012.  The mean years of schooling on the contrary showed a lesser figure of 3.4 for years 2010 to 2012 as against the other table showing of 3.9.  The Brief also mentioned that Eritrea had HDI value of 0.351 and ranked 181 in 2012.    It was also mentioned that in the year 2011, Eritrea was ranked 177 out of 187 countries.  All these paradoxes did not go unnoticed by the report.  It made a remark that to be misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports because of changes in underlying data and methods.  This is a self-defeating argument and unprofessional.

There were reports by Harry Hare in April 2007 on ICT in education in Eritrea ranking Eritrea 157 out of 177 in HDI.  There were also UNDP reports of HDI ranked as 157 out of 177 with HDI of 0.454 in 2006, and 165 out of 177 in 2009 with HDI of 0.472, both listed under low human development group.  In year 2011, UNDP ranked Eritrea 177 out of 187 countries and in this report, the expected years of schooling was 4.8 years and the mean of schooling 3.4 completely in disagreement with the data shown in the above  table.   Kindly note the anomalies in the above two tables in respect with expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling as discussed earlier.  Hope the observations in each year’s HDI calculation are the same unless guess-work is made in arriving the results.

Amazingly, Eritrea  had HDI of 0.483 for the year 2005 as reported by the World Health Organization. ( In 2006, UNDP ranked Eritrea as 156 out of 177 countries with 0.439 HDI.  Why Eritrea from being 156 went to the last ranking country? Hope politics does not intrude into the statistics or econometric evaluation.   In this context, reference to the definition of statistics has to be made to show how the reports by UNDP with regard to the HDI are unprofessional.  Statistics is the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty; and it thereby provides the navigation essential for controlling the course of scientific and societal advances.  Moreover, statisticians provide crucial guidance in determining what information is reliable and which predictions can be trusted. They often help search for clues to the solution of a scientific mystery and sometimes keep investigators from being misled by false impressions. The observations actually do not change.

Forget the rudimentary statistics tools as the UNDP’s calculation of the mean years of schooling is based on econometrics. In econometrics, several testing methods are used to ensure that the results derived are well fit .

Eritrea: Average years of schooling, ages 25 and above, total (years): is shown below and these figures are higher than the one shown above by UNDP.

Average years of schooling, ages 15 and above, total (years) 105     5,7 2015
Average years of schooling, ages 15-19, total (years)              107     6,0  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 15-44, total (years)              105     6,2  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 15-64, total (years)              104     5,9  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 20-24, total (years)              107     6,7  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 25 and above, total (years) 102     5,4  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 25-29, total (years)              107     6,5  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 30-34, total (years)              104     6,4  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 35-39, total (years)              103     5,9  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 40-44, total (years)                98     5,8  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 45-49, total (years)              109     4,4  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 45-64, total (years)              108     3,7 2015
Average years of schooling, ages 50-54, total (years)              110     3,8 2015
Average years of schooling, ages 55-59, total (years)              110     3,1 2015
Average years of schooling, ages 60-64, total (years)              111     2,5 2015
Average years of schooling, ages 65 and above, total (years) 107     1,6  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 65-69, total (years)             108      2,1  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 70-74, total (years)             107      1,6  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 75-79, total (years)             110      0,8  2015
Average years of schooling, ages 80 and above, total (years) 111      0,4 2015

Education statistics for Eritrea by World Bank as of December 2014 made a projection of the mean years of schooling for the age group 25+ of male.  In  this projection, the value for the mean years of schooling was 5.67 years (2005),  6.23 years (2010), and 6.63 years (2015) (

Mean years of schooling projected by World Bank for 2050 is 8.145 (Eritrea), 10.225 (Kenya), 5,801 (Ethiopia), and 10.278 (Uganda).  Eritrea’s projection is higher than Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

Besides this, with the 22% and over urban population, the possibility of joining school in Eritrea is very high.  Thus, the expected years of schooling and the mean years of schooling should  likely be higher compared to UNDP’s indexes.

It has a massive intake of 22,000 students in 2007 (Norwegian Church Aid).  Sometimes this number was reported as 17,000 in 2013. (  The number of students in higher education institutions has increased from around 5,000 students attending classes at the University of Asmara in 2004 to approximately 17,000 students in 2012 attending higher education programs at the new colleges. in Eritrea and Ethiopia  2013-1 _

There is an evident problem of statistics in the HDI of UNDP.  Different figures are presented in different websites as similar to that of HDI of UNDP.

V. Conclusion:

What happens when the data are wrong for the HDI?????

First, it taints the image of the country by putting wrong information in it's ranking or assigning to it a very low HDI and posing critical reviews and presentations by world organizations and even its citizens.  In this connection, the following are quoted to put the record straight right.

Awate Team in its March 17, 2013, article ‘Eritrea’s Dismal Human Development Report’ commented on the Eritrean low HDI and mentioning that it is only ahead of 6 mostly warn-torn countries of Niger, Congo, Mozambique, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali.  It made a remark on its low (reported albeit may not be right) HDI as a reflection of improper administration and the government as a wanton violator of Eritreans civil liberties and human rights.   Not much may be a necessity to argue on these points as the countries mentioned are not in a war position as compared to Eritrea and not sure which Congo the article is referring to.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) just released its annual Human Development Report and Eritrea is ranked third from bottom, next to Central African Republic and Niger, in Human Development Index (HDI). Of the 188 countries listed, Eritrea is ranked # 186.

Kiros Beyene, in his article Progress: Eritrea’s Human Development Status an overview of the 2014 Human Development Report, commented that the Government of Eritrea did not want the world to know how the country’s resources are being distributed among its people and thus a lack of data contributed to appropriate HDI or IHDI figures for Eritrea.  He asserted that the Government would be blind in denial of the facts and we all know that life and wellbeing of our people is going from bad to worse in every minute and every day.

Second, UNDP in its HDI Report on 2015 for Eritrea mentions that “it is misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports, because of revisions and updates of the underlying data and adjustments to goalposts. Readers are advised to assess progress in HDI values by referring to table 2 (‘Human Development Index Trends’) in the Statistical Annex of the report. Table 2 is based on consistent indicators, methodology and time-series data and thus shows real changes in values and ranks over time, reflecting the actual progress countries have made. Small changes in values should be interpreted with caution as they may not be statistically significant due to sampling variation. Generally speaking, changes at the level of the third decimal place in any of the composite indices are considered insignificant.”  All indices and indicators, along with technical notes on the calculation of composite indices, and additional source information are available online.

The suspicion for correctness of the data is high.  As a matter of fact, data cannot change or cooked as needed.    There should be consistency and as shown in the passages above, there were different figures of HDI, expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling reported for the same year.
This poses critical review and from the outset and a matter of professional perspectives.  The reports need much to be desired.

Hence, statistical results should be examined if they fit and econometric analyses should be tested using econometric tools.  Otherwise, the reports would fail under the category of GIGO (garbage in garbage out).

It is noted that inconsistent statistical results, misuse of various statistical tests, and ordinary typos. It is mentioned in the UNDP report that a number of countries are missing data for one or more of the four HDI components. Hence, the HDI was calculated for only 169 countries (168 UN member countries plus the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China). Micronesia entered the HDI table for the first time this year while Zimbabwe re-entered. Antigua and Barbuda, Bhutan, Cuba, Dominica, Eritrea, Grenada, Lebanon, Oman, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, and Vanuatu dropped from the table because data were missing. (UN Statistics Division)

Hence, how the calculation of HDI for Eritrea done if data is missing?  It looks awkward. It looked to go to common statistical tests used by scientists to produce a number called the p value that quantifies this. Here’s how it’s defined:  The P value is defined as the probability, under the assumption of no effect or no difference (the null hypothesis), of obtaining a result equal to or more extreme than what was actually observed.  It goes without saying that an in-depth and critical review of the reports to be necessary as the problem of the computation looks much pronounced and unprofessional.

Third, the Ministry of Education of Eritrea and Statistics Office need to do a lot in providing timely information to UNDP with the performance of education and the related statistics.  It is said that information is ammunition. Some countries do provide fake information to present their countries as best performers.  It is obvious that Eritrea has gone by leaps and bounds in extending educational and health services.  Hope this case will not prevail in future and in the coming HDI report for Eritrea so that misleading information will not persist.

Fourth, hope Eritreans in a range of social science disciplines like economists, statisticians, econometricians and specialists in demography and populations, especially in educations will add some flavor to this paper by critically reviewing it against the UNDP’s skewed HDI Reports.

We need to play with cards not to sink but to swim and to survive and not to perish because Eritrea is a country of can-do people!!!!  
Long live Eritrea!!!!

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