Regional Human Development Report 2016
Progress at Risk: Inequalities and Human Development in Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Central Asia
Launched October 2016
Global narratives on inequalities and how best to address them have not yet fully connected with the transition and developing economies of Europe, Turkey, and Central Asia.
This is partly because of the region’s largely post-socialist heritage, which left relatively equal distributions of income, relatively broad access to social services, and relatively small gender disparities. Unfortunately, there are worrying signs that these advantages are being lost—and that problems of inequality and vulnerability are growing and converging with those of other regions.
But low commodity prices and shrinking remittances, slow growth in Russia and Europe, and unfinished economic reform agendas in many countries are preventing or eliminating too many income-generation opportunities in the region. In some of the region’s poorer countries, more than half of the labour force is working in precarious or informal jobs and are not fully covered by social protection. Women are particularly vulnerable to these developments. Labour migrants, Roma and other ethnic minorities, and people living with HIV/AIDS or disabilities, are also facing serious risks.
This report explains how—despite relatively equal distributions of income, broad access to social services, and small gender disparities—many countries of this region are facing growing threats to their human development accomplishments. It shows how popular concerns about inequalities—in terms of income and wealth, but also equality before the law — seem to be on the rise in many countries. It identifies key policy reforms and programming areas for more effective responses to the region’s inequality challenges.
This report addresses these challenges and calls for better measurement of inequalities and sustainability in official statistics, the expansion of care services to address gender-based labour market exclusion, reductions in tax burdens on labour, and expanding fiscal space via reductions in fossil fuel subsidies and increased collection of taxes on illicit financial flows.
Branko Milanovic's “elephant” chart shows real incomes received by various shares of the global population, provoking the question: Who are these people at the bottom of the elephant’s trunk?
The popular view in Eastern Europe and Central Asia seems to be that even if these countries are today richer than they were in 1990, the pie is divided much less fairly.
Women across the sub-region continue to be much less likely than men to be engaged in the labour force.
Are different forms of inequalities always and equally objectionable? In fact, inequalities may be “good”, “bad”, or “ugly” – and sometimes more than one at the same time.