SVG ranks high on HDI, but low on salaries
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves giving the inaugural lecture at the Institute of Governance and Politics of Latin America and the Caribbean
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December 1, 2023
SVG ranks high on HDI, but low on salaries

Despite salaries in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) being the lowest in the region, the country is considered to have a high level of human development.

The issue of the country’s ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI) was raised on Monday, November 27 by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves during the inaugural lecture of the Institute of Governance and Politics of Latin America and the Caribbean which was being held at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown.

The Prime Minister said that while one measures economic growth with Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the HDI gives a more multi-dimensional way of measuring development and SVG’s HDI rank of 89 tells a positive developmental story.

A section of the audience at the inaugural lecture

According to the website of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

“St Vincent and the Grenadines’s HDI value for 2021 is 0.751 which puts the country in the High human development category, positioning it at 89 out of 191 countries and territories,” the UNDP website states.

“…St Vincent is at a high level of human development measured on the basis of the HDI which includes education, health, housing, levels of income so on and so forth,” Gonsalves said on Monday.

“So we have obviously seen over a period, given some of the indicators I pointed to, significant enhancement, undoubted growth and you can point to transformation in terms of development if you look at the indicators,” the Prime Minister further told persons gathered.

He said that over the last several years, the country has seen growth in many areas, including housing and education, but it is a fact that the country has a lot of challenges that are internal, home grown, autochthonous and external.

“They are challenges which emerge from human activity, challenges which occur from nature and challenges which arise from our very extant condition,” Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister said that SVG consists of 150 square miles of land and about 11,000 nautical miles of sea with a population of about 110,000 with no natural resources like gold or diamond and limited land.

“…But instead we have fertile soil,” Gonsalves said while noting that as the country grows and develops there is less land but more houses.

“For instance in 2001, you had under 30,000 households which means independent houses, but you have now about 45,000 – 46,000 households…,” Gonsalves said while noting that this is a significant rise and speaks of development.

“I don’t think that if you check proportionately in the United States of America you would see such a growth in houses between 2001 and 2022/23.”

While he did not refer directly to the PayPulse 2023 Caribbean Salary Survey, the Prime Minister’s comments about SVG’s HDI came on the heels of the release of the survey’s findings which paint a bleak picture of salary compensation in SVG, placing us as the lowest-paying country in the region.

The report said that out of the 15 countries surveyed, SVG ranked as the lowest-paying country with 73.3 per cent of salaries falling below the regional average.

Thirty job roles were surveyed for the report across 26 industries including Legal, Finance, Digital Media, Information Technology, Office Management and Customer Service. The selection of roles was determined based on a poll conducted among last year’s survey respondents.

Barbados emerged as the highest-paying country in the Caribbean, with 53.3 per cent of surveyed jobs exceeding market value, while Antigua and Barbuda was ranked second with 16.7 per cent of jobs paying above market value. Jamaica followed closely behind at 13.3 per cent.

It must be noted that on the UNDP’s HDI, SVG ranks above Jamaica and St Lucia but still below Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) and St Kitts Nevis.