Mongolia National Human Development Report 2003

01 Aug 2003


Having overcome the initial turbulence of transition experienced between 1990 and 1994 when real incomes collapsed, unemployment rose sharply and human conditions deteriorated, Mongolia is now poised to take advantage of the opening up of markets and the potential offered by private enterprises. A recent phenomenon, however, that has emerged is the striking differentials between rural and urban areas in the quality of people's lives.


Eliminating these spatial inequalities - the theme of this year's National Human Development Report - is fundamental to accelerating human development and securing a prosperous future for the citizens of Mongolia. Mongolia has recorded several gains in human development in the recent past. In 1999, the Human Development Index recovered to, and surpassed 1990 levels. Infant mortality has declined steadily from 64.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 48 in 1994 and 29.9 in 2002.


Literacy levels had reached 98.0 percent by 2000 - 98.5 percent among men and 97.5 percent among women. School enrolment indicates an unusual "reverse gender gap", with more girls enrolled than boys and this applies to every aimag across the country. Mongolia's economic performance has improved in recent years. GDP is estimated to have grown at 4.0 percent in 2002 - higher than in previous years, but well below the target of 5.5 percent needed to meet the country's poverty reduction goals. Also, little headway has been made in reducing income poverty. Both the depth and severity of poverty have increased in recent years, as has the inequality in income distribution. Close to 35.6 percent of the population was below the income poverty line in 1998 - marginally lower than the 36.2 percent recorded for 1995.


Women in Mongolia, unlike in many other countries, do not face a serious problem of gender discrimination. Progress for women has been quite positive in the past under the socialist regime as well as in recent years. However, not all developments and outcomes have been favourable to women. In 1998, the proportion of poor women (44.0 percent) was more than double the proportion of poor men (21.0 percent). Women's share of parliamentary representation has fallen from 23.0 percent in 1990 to 10.0 percent in 2000. There are stark differences in the quality of life of people in rural and urban areas. The extent of rural disadvantage in Mongolia is very striking even though a higher proportion of the poor live in urban areas. The urban sector generates 61.6 percent of the country's GDP and conversely, the rural sector only 38.4 percent in 2002.


However, in 1998, urban poverty (39.4 percent) exceeded rural poverty (32.6 percent). More than half (57.0 percent) of the extremely poor lived in urban areas - 26.0 percent of them in the capital. Whereas, 43.0 percent of the poor lived in rural areas. Almost one-half of the maternal deaths in 2000 were women from herding households, perhaps hours by horse or motorcycle from the nearest source of help. Sixty percent of urban residents have central heating and bathrooms with showers, compared to 32.0 percent in aimags, and virtually no one in soums and baghs. Just 4.0 percent of ger dwellers in urban areas have telephones, compared to 10.0 percent in aimags, and 2.0 percent in soums and baghs. Geography and topography are responsible for much of the striking spatial inequalities across the country.

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