Measuring Human Exclusion for Structural Transformation: The African Social Development Index (ASDI)

Macculi, Iris (2016). 'Measuring Human Exclusion for Structural Transformation: The African Social Development Index (ASDI)' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Intergenerational Equity, Capability Measurement and Index, AFR - Africa

Despite two decades of unprecedented economic growth, Africa has yet to see its economic gains translated into positive social outcomes. Considerable inequalities persist, both between and within countries, suggesting that growth has not been sufficiently inclusive and equitable for all segments of the population. Recent figures show that poorer children in Africa are still about two and half times more likely to be underweight and up to three times more likely to be out of school than those from wealthier households. Informal employment, especially among young people, is the mainstay in Africa, while social protection remains inadequate and inaccessible to many people, reducing their capacity to fully participate in and contribute to the development process.
Exclusion is a multidimensional phenomenon that is difficult to define unless a clear framework is established on how and what aspects of exclusion are to be assessed. There is clear recognition, however, that an “excluded” society is likely to impair development, slow down economic growth, and trigger social and political instability. Higher inequality and exclusion also limit opportunities for social mobility and increase people’s vulnerabilities to external shocks, pushing them further into poverty. This is indeed what the continent is currently experiencing, with sustained economic growth unable to ensure the inclusive and equitable distribution of its benefits across populations. Moreover, evidence shows that the pace of progress towards a more inclusive development in Africa is too slow and its drivers too limited to meet the needs of its poorest populations.
By adopting a life-cycle approach, the paper introduces a new tool, the African Social Development Index (ASDI), which seeks to measure the extent and patterns of human exclusion in six key dimensions of wellbeing – including survival, nutrition, education, employment, means of subsistence and decent life for the elderly. For each dimension, an indicator is used that best captures exclusion in that particular dimension and phase of life. Depending upon the availability of data, the index can be measured across gender, geographical locations and sub-regions to assess inequalities within countries and groups of populations.
The ASDI is strongly anchored on the human development approach, and based on the premise that people can face different forms of exclusion at different stages of their lives, with important intra-generational effects. Specifically, the ASDI introduces a new conceptual framework to measure human exclusion, defined as ‘the result of social, economic, political, institutional and cultural barriers that are manifested in deprived human conditions and that limit the capacity of individuals to benefit and contribute to development’. The focus is therefore on understanding and addressing the contextual factors – including policies, institutions and behavioral factors – that can have an impact on individual capability to participate in development.
The preliminary results of the ASDI from select African countries show that despite high levels of economic growth, the majority are still coping with the challenge of making their growth more inclusive and equitable. The analysis of the drivers of exclusion provides critical insights for policy makers and practitioners on the structural causes of exclusion in each country, helping to map out and assess the effectiveness of social policies in reducing human exclusion. This will be critical in identifying inclusive policy options that can be integrated in national and subnational development planning.

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