San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.N. Rankings Show Room for Improvement

DESPITE a 95.8% literacy rate and decades of boasting about its public education system, Costa Rica now ranks 112 out of 173 countries in access to education, according to the latest United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Report.The report, released this week, ranks Costa Rica 47th out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index, which is based on per capita income, life expectancy, access to education and literacy rates. While Costa Rica remains among the countries “of high development,” it must improve high school coverage and eliminate the gaps between rich and poor, as well as between salaries of men and women, the report concludes.Costa Rica ranked 128th out of 154 countries in the salary gap between men and women, with women making, on average, one-third of what men earn – despite the fact that women in Costa Rica reach higher education levels than men, and occupy high positions in the government and business sectors on a larger scale than in other countries.The report also found Costa Rica has one of the longest life expectancies in the world at 78.2 years, putting it in 25th place. The country’s per capita income of $9,606 ranks in 57th place.The report revealed that the poorest 20% of Costa Rica’s population earns 4.2% of the wealth, while the richest 20% earns 51.5%.UNDP Costa Rica representative José Manuel Hermida said the goal of the report is to provide information to decision-makers and leaders, not necessarily to reach policy conclusions. However, he added that the study reveals clear areas where Costa Rica must improve, or else development, and subsequently democracy, is threatened.Costa Rica has fallen to fourth place in Latin America in the development index, surpassed by Argentina (34), Chile (37) and Uruguay (46).Although Costa Rica dropped from 45th in 2004, Hermida said the slip does not necessarily reflect a real change in development, but rather imperfections in the methodology and increases by other countries.Norway ranked first in the index, while Canada ranked 5th, the United States ranked 10th, the United Kingdom ranked 15th, and Niger ranked last. On an international level, the 2005 Human Development Report found that 1,200 children die every hour; the income of the 500 richest people is larger than that of the 416 million poorest; and countries with a per capita annual income of $250 are two times as likely to have a civil war than those with a $600 per capita annual income.

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