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Measuring human development and capabilities in Italy: methodological and empirical issues

  1. This research project will apply and elaborate the capability approach (CA) to analyse well-being and development in Italy. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has produced a number of global, national and local Human Development (HD) Reports, which analyse the performance of countries and regions by using the key principles of the CA, firstly proposed by Amartya Sen. The production of HD Reports was also possible because of the growing international scientific literature on the CA, that has developed both the theoretical framework and the methodologies to apply this approach to many socioeconomic issues. Although the CA it is not intended or oriented merely toward less developed countries, all national HD reports produced by UNDP regard middle or low-income countries. While there is a number of academic studies that apply the CA in high-income countries, the only HD report produced for an high-income country is the recent American HD report.

    This research project analyses the main methodological and empirical issues related to the production of an HD report for Italy. The project will explore HD issues at macro (aggregate), meso (territorial) and micro (household and individual) level, in a multi-scalar integrated perspective. The project will also elaborate and apply appropriate methodologies for the empirical analysis of capabilities and HD. Furthermore, the project will explore issues related to the choice of an informational basis that is both theoretically consistent with the CA and appropriate for the Italian socioeconomic conditions; the choice is also strongly constrained to the availability of suitable data, especially at local scale.

    The project is made of different but strongly interrelated working packages:

    The analysis of the performance of Italy by using the HD composite indices proposed by UNDP, such as the Human Development Index (HDI), the Human Poverty Index (HPI), the Gender Development Index (GDI), the Gender Empower Measure (GEM). As this research concerns Italy, some national and local context indicators will be developed. The research activities for this working package are:
 (a) to build HD composite indices with the same dimensions of the UNDP ones; (b) to build alternative HDI and HPI, introducing new variables such as participation and enabling environment, and alternative GDI and GEM, considering the women conditions in high-income countries;
 (c) to analyze results at local scale and by development dimensions, and ranking by territories;
 (d) to analyze trends of HD composite indices in Italy and at local scale.

  2. The development of different quantitative methodologies (structural equation models, random utility models, soft computing and multi criteria decision analysis techniques) which will be applied to empirical issues that are particularly relevant in Italy. For each of them some particular capabilities will be analyzed:
 (2.1) children well-being (imagination and leisure activities); (2.2) gender inequality (bodily integrity and living an healthy life); (2.3) workers well being (capability of accessing work, working and caring for others); (2.4) well being of temporary and part-time workers (bodily health and safety and mental well-being); (2.5) well being of disabled people.

  3. Evaluation of human development at national and local levels by using the indicators and results of previous steps and carrying out policy evaluation analyses.

The main focus of the research project is on human development and wellbeing with reference to the Italian context. To reach this objective the research units share the innovative Amartya Sen's analytical approach to development centred on people and based on individuals' capabilities evaluation. The ultimate aim of the project is to apply and elaborate the capability approach to analyse wellbeing and development in Italy.
In the construction of wellbeing Sen's capabilities approach provides the analytical tools to highlight individuals' differences and the effect of social, environmental and family conversion factors in the functionings achievements.
The extension of the vision of the economic system to non market dimensions and to the relational aspects of living conditions with a central role of the unpaid work of social reproduction that the macro extended reproductive approach has developed, will allow us to bring to a macro level the results of the analysis on the individuals recognizing the tensions in the sustainability of the economic system and gender roles in the definition of wellbeing.


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