Barbados steps ahead of much of the rest of the Caribbean Basin, including the English-speaking Caribbean islands, in terms of its quality of life. The United Nations’ annual Human Development Report (HDR) showcases the Human Development Index (HDI) principles. Over the past two decades, it has been ranking its 187 member states and regions, while providing data on the measurement of three basic societal dimensions: health, education, and income. Barbados, a tourist destination with a population of approximately 280,000, has an HDI of 0.793, which translates to a rank of 47 out of 187 countries, leading all of the other English-speaking islands in its qualitative ranking in 2011; this represents an impressive improvement in its standing over the previous year.
With respect to the Caribbean and Latin American region, Barbados, which was deemed the only “developed” country in the 2010 HDR and labeled by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s 2011 economic report as “the most competitive country in the Caribbean”, is above average for the region (0.731) and merits being placed in the ‘Very High Human Development’ category. Barbados is ranked third throughout the Americas and Caribbean for its HDI and first in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Accordingly, in the Global Competitiveness Report, out of 142 countries, Barbados comes second in Latin America and the Caribbean, compared to twenty-seventh worldwide for its overall global competitiveness. This can be seen in the rise of tourism the island is experiencing as it seeks to expand its tourist pool. For instance, between the months of January and October 2011, there have been 469,254 long-stay tourists visiting the island, a recorded eight percent increase, and about 34,223 tourist arrivals compared with the corresponding period in 2010.
Important lessons can be learned from the HDR and the respective reports that encourage other countries to seek to emulate its progress. In the case of Barbados, for example, gender equality has improved; 89.5 percent of women have achieved a secondary level education or higher, compared to 87.6 percent of men. Now, women typically stay in school for fourteen years and men attend for thirteen years.
With the increase presence of females in the education system, the effects translate to the economic sector where women hold 50.7 percent of jobs in the non-agricultural sector. Also, since 1980, the mean number of years of schooling in Barbados increased by three years, with a GNI (Gross National Income) per capita increase of 26.0 percent. Barbados shines in comparison to its CARICOM neighbors, where the closest comparable island nation, Antigua and Barbuda, is ranked 60, while others are ranked as low as 82 (St. Lucia). With its exceptional human development in areas such as pro-gender equality in the education and the non-agricultural sectors, Barbados appears to deserve its UN rank as a developed country and the lead in its region. One critique however would be for Barbados to invest in the areas where there may be a lack of data, such as in the Multidimensional Poverty Index, in order to maintain its citizens’ overall well-being.