• Tackling vulnerability: Five reflections on the Human Development Report in Moldova

    13 Aug 2014

    By Alex Oprunenco and Dumitru Vasilescu

    Last month, the 2014 Human Development Report was officially unveiled.

    It is probably the most comprehensive and empirically robust analysis of progress and trends in human development. On top of this, it guides us towards new policy approaches that tend to shatter our ‘business as usual’ approach.

    Here’s how we see its relevance in the Moldova context, where we’ve spent last couple of years trying to understand underlying trends in human development.

    1. Making up for lost time?

    The Human Development Index (HDI) is a tool that measures and assesses long-term progress in three basic dimensions of development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.

    This year, with an HDI of 0.663, Moldova is ranked 114 out of 187 countries. On average over the past decade, Moldova’s HDI value has increased by 0.12 percent per year, propelled largely by improvements in health and education.

    2. Many shades of vulnerability

    The chief topic of this year’s report is human vulnerability or the prospects of eroding people’s capabilities and choices.

    Vulnerability is not only about money; it is also lack of access to basic services such as education, health, and water supply.

    Vulnerability can severely limit choices and opportunities today and for future generations. Its ultimate expression is social exclusion: 21.6 percent of Moldova’s total population are at risk of social exclusion.

    3. Living on the wrong side of the fence

    Strong progress in reducing vulnerabilities and improving livelihoods has been made in Moldova in recent years.

    For instance, the number of people living under poverty line more than halved in the last seven years, from 30.2 to 12.7 percent.

    Access to education and child mortality have also significantly improved. However, this progress is not necessarily evenly spread: Around 84 percent Moldova’s poor reside in rural areas, and that gap is increasing.

    Women also face higher vulnerability risks.

    Major barriers exist in relation with employment opportunities (e.g. women devote twice as much time to household chores and family care than men) and earning potential, as well as political participation at both national and local levels.

    And although there no significant poverty-related gaps, women feel more excluded than men.

    4. Fragility

    People may experience not only structural vulnerability, but also life-cycle vulnerability.

    For instance in Moldova around 18 percent of the elderly-led households live below poverty line.

    Public perceptions confirm the data: 34.1 percent of elderly people consider themselves the most excluded; while post-2015 national consultations showed that over 66 percent of respondents considered the “lonely elderly” as the worst-off social group in Moldova.

    Similar disparities plague the young, who are twice as likely to find themselves unemployed than the rest of population. No wonder decent job creation topped the list of aspirations of Moldovan people for the post-2015 future.

    5. In search of resilience…

    In Moldova, many see high energy, food prices, and climate-related threats as major challenges in the future. These threats should be central when it comes to Moldovan policy-making.

    Examples of such policies include: universal social assistance (some reports show that if all social programmes were fully reaching their relevant recipients, poverty in Moldova would become a thing of the past); and re-designing and decentralizing public services and labor market policies.

    But it is not all about policies.

    Effective solutions should take into account the local contexts, human mindsets, and robustly engage with the people.

    Several of our projects aim at doing just that.

    We are working to provide provide solutions that would help vulnerable groups with accessible energy, support green energy solutions, and drive job creation.

    Another project looks at the ways in which different groups of unemployed can be brought back into the labor market through development of the soft skills.

    These trainings not only enable the person as a job-seeker, but also as a human being who is more self-confident and integrated into the fabric of social life.

    All in all, understanding better human vulnerability can lead to improved public policies, better development programmes, and ultimately, people-led development – and that is what all of us should perhaps be striving for.

    We are always on the lookout for new voices and different perspectives: Are we missing something? What experiences have you had in your country?


About the authors

Alex Oprunenco

Alex is a policy specialist with UNDP in Moldova, leading poverty reduction work and national post-2015 consultations. He’s also exploring how behavioural science can be applied in development work.

Dumitru Vasilescu

Dumitru is project manager in the policy implementing unit dealing with policy analysis, entrepreneurship, and sustainable employment for UNDP in Moldova. He is particularly interested in local economic development, social inclusion and MDGs.