Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) have shown that Qatar would be near the top of the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) if adjustments were made for the country’s large population of migrant workers.
The HDI was developed to measure the overall wellbeing of a nation and is often used as a means of comparing countries.
It is calculated using three variables: health, wealth and education. The health component is based on life expectancy at birth and the wealth component is gross national income per capita. But since 2011 the education component has been split into two separate measures: mean schooling years for adults and expected school years for children entering the education system.
It is the mean schooling years for adults that the researchers have concluded skews the results of Qatar’s HDI measurement, as a large percentage of migrant workers have had less formal education.
The study - entitled Impact of migrant workers on the Human Development Index - was conducted by Dr Ravinder Mamtani, Associate Dean for Global and Public Health at WCMC-Q, Dr Sohaila Cheema, Director of Global and Public Health at WCMC-Q; and Dr Albert B Lowenfels, Professor of Surgery at New York Medical College. The study has been published in the UK-based Journal, Perspectives in Public Health.
Dr Mamtani said: “Our research study makes two important points. One, the Human Development Index must be adjusted for the migrant population because this group often has a low level of education. Failure to do so can result in a distorted HDI ranking for a nation such as Qatar with 70-80 percent migrant workers. Two, the current HDI ranking based on unadjusted data must be interpreted with caution.”
Dr Lowenfels said: “The study makes a valuable point, that is, if the HDI measure was appropriately adjusted for the presence of migrant workers, then Qatar would rank near Norway at the top of the United Nations Human Development list.”
The researchers said the other components of the HDI – health and income – did not have a significant impact on the final measurement as generally only healthy workers were granted work permits and the wages that the workers earned were not taxed and, for the most part, transferred to their home countries.
They concluded that there are currently 14 countries with more than 30 per cent migrant workers whose ranking in the HDI list is severely impacted and the researchers said that the HDI rankings of any country with a high proportion of expatriate workers should be interpreted cautiously.
To read the HDI study in full visit