The Basic Capabilities Index: It is not about money

The Basic Capabilities Index (BCI) was designed by social watch as an alternative way to monitor the situation of poverty in the world. Most of the available poverty-measurement is based on the premise that poverty is a monetary phenomenon and they measure, for example, how many persons live with an income of less than one dollar a day. 

The BCI is an alternative non-monetary measure of poverty and well-being based on key human capabilities that are indispensable for survival and human dignity. The indicators that make up the BCI are among the most basic of those used to measure the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS).The BCI assigns equal weight to three Basic Capabilities: (1) the capability to be well-nourished;(2) the capability for healthy and safe reproduction; (3) and the capability to be educated and be knowledgeable. The index is computed as the average of three indicators: 1) mortality among children under five, 2) reproductive or maternal-child health (measured by births attended by skilled health personnel), and 3) education (measured with a combination of enrolment in primary education, the proportion of children reaching fifth grade and adult literacy rate).

All the indicators are expressed in percentages and they range from 0 to 100. under-five mortality, which is usually expressed in number of deaths per thousand children born alive, is expressed as 100 minus that value. so that, for example, a value of 20 deaths per thousand becomes 2% and, when deducted from 100, yields a basic indicator value of 98. Thus, the theoretical maximum value in infant mortality is 100, which would mean that all children born alive survive until they are five years old. reproductive health takes the maximum value 100 when all women giving birth are attended by skilled health personnel. similarly, the education indicator registers 100 when all school age children are enrolled in education and they all attain five years of schooling. These three indicators are then averaged, so the total value of the index will vary between 0% and 100%.

BCI for 2011

Countries with basic BCI level have reached a reasonable level of human development and have basically met the MDG targets way ahead of the 2015 deadline. Countries with medium BCI level have achieved a certain level of momentum to address key human development concerns and have a fair chance of meeting the MDG targets by 2015. Countries with low BCI level are still struggling to provide basic services for their citizens and will more likely miss the MDG targets by 2015. Countries with very low and critical BCI levels will certainly miss the MDG targets. Most of these countries, particularly those with critical BCI level, are experiencing severe economic difficulties, social unrest or wars. Some have just emerged from armed conflict and are still transitioning to normalize government operations and public services.