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Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco are very close to each other and have a similar history and culture.

Algeria and Tunisia are extremely close on the 2015 (and previous years') Human Development Index, reflecting the proximity between those countries. They are 83rd and 96th in the world ranking, respectively.

However, Morocco is significantly lower: It has an HDI of only 0.628 and is only 126th.

The main difference between Morocco and its two neighbours are:

  • The country is a constitutional monarchy, instead of an weak/unsable parliamentary republic
  • The country does not border Libya which is became an extremely unstable country since Kadhaffi fell.
  • There might be stronger ties with Europe as it is located closer geographically.
  • Thanks to the political stability, there is relatively less Islamic radicalism.
  • There is also more tourism from Europe and thus more revenue.

All those elements seem to imply that Morocco should be slightly more developed than its two Eastern neighbours, but the numbers tells the opposite. Why? I understand that Morocco's HDI is low because people have low standards of living, the economy is weak, etc., yet I do not see why it would be significantly worse than Algeria and Tunisia.

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All the information in my answer comes from the 2015 report's statistical annex.

HDI is calculated based on three dimensions:

Health

The first element of HDI is health, which UNDP measure as life expectancy at birth. In the 2015 report, this value was very similar for all three countries: Tunisia and Algeria both have 74.8, while Morocco trails at 74. This is likely not the cause of Morocco's low ranking.

Education

UNDP uses two measurements for education: the expected years of education that someone born today will have, and the average years of education of the current adult population.

Morocco trails Algeria and Tunisia by quite a bit here. Below I compiled these values into a table so you can see them side by side:

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The current Moroccan adult population only has 4.4 years of schooling - a little over half of what a Tunisian adult has. Although they have apparently closed some of the education gap, people being born today in Morocco are still expected to have three fewer years of education than Algerian or Tunisian.

Income

The third dimension is income, which UNDP measures as the gross national income per capita. Morocco's GNI is $6,850 per person. Tunisia is at about $10,000 per capita, while Algeria is at about $13,000 per capita. Morocco is again trailing by a lot.

Their statistical index also includes another measure: The country's GNI rank - HDI rank. Morocco's number is -8, meaning that their HDI is higher than their income would lead you to believe. Tunisia and Algeria are at +1 and -1. This difference likely reflects the relatively long lives of Moroccans.

By the way, 8 ranks down is Syria, whose HDI is 0.594.

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  • 1
    This would be improved by explaining why Morocceans have much less years of schooling and lower income. Also Syria is at war so no comparison makes any sense.
    – Bregalad
    Jan 24 '17 at 21:04
  • @Bregalad - Agreed. My answer ignores all that context on purpose, focusing on how HDI is calculated. I'll leave the case study to someone else. Jan 24 '17 at 21:06
  • 1
    One explanation of Algeria's higher Gross National Income per capita wrt Morocco (and Tunisia) would be the importance of Algeria's exportations of gaz.
    – Evargalo
    Mar 21 '18 at 12:06

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