• The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living. The HDI is the geometric mean of normalized indices for each of the three dimensions.
    1. The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth,
    2. The education dimension is measured by mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age.
    3. The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita.
  • It is calculated using 4 indicators –
    1. Life expectancy at birth (Sustainable Development Goal 3),
    2. Expected years of schooling (Sustainable Development Goal 4.3),
    3. Mean years of schooling (Sustainable Development Goal 4.4),
    4. Gross national income (GNI) (Sustainable Development Goal 8.5).
  • The HDI uses the logarithm of income, to reflect the diminishing importance of income with increasing GNI. The scores for the three HDI dimension indices are then aggregated into a composite index using geometric mean.

HDI Dimensions and Indicators

  • The HDRO provides other composite indices as broader proxy on some of the key issues of human development, inequality, gender disparity and poverty.
  • A fuller picture of a country’s level of human development requires analysis of other indicators and information presented in the HDR statistical annex.

Human Development Report

  • Human Development Reports (HDRs) have been released since 1990 and have explored different themes through the human development approach.
  • It’s published by the Human Development Report Office for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • The foremost objective behind publishing the Human Development Report are:
    • Progress and enhancing human development.
    • Augmentation of chances, and choices, and facilitating liberty to people throughout the world.
    • Institution to the creative ideas pertaining to human development.
    • Upholding the practical amendments in the policy.
    • Opposing the policies coming as an obstacle to human development.
  • The first Human Development Report was printed in 1990 by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and the distinguished laureate of India, Amartya Sen. The Human Development Report covers 13 dimensions:
    1. Gender
    2. Health
    3. Human security
    4. Mobility & Communication
    5. Socio-economic sustainability
    6. Trade and financial flows
    7. Work, employment, and vulnerability
    8. Income
    9. Inequality
    10. Humans’ Development
    11. Demography
    12. Education
    13. Environment Sustainability
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) annually releases the HDR with 5 composite indices, which are:
    1. Human Development Index (HDI)
    2. Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (considers ‘Inequality’ as the fourth pillar) (IHDI)
    3. Gender Development Index (GDI)
    4. Gender Inequality Index (GII)
    5. Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

Limitations of HDI

  • HDR has been always disputable and has caught the public-eye, whenever it was published. It has many reasons.
  • One of them is that the concept of human development is much deeper and richer than what can be caught in any index or set of indicators. Another argument is that its concept has not changed since 1990 when it was also defined in the first.
  • An incomplete indicator
    • Human development is incomplete without human freedom and that while the need for qualities judgement is clear; there is no simple quantitative measure available yet to capture the many aspects of human freedom.
    • HDI also does not specifically reflect quality of life factors, such as empowerment movements or overall feelings of security or happiness.
  • Limited idea of development
    • The HDI is not reflecting the human development idea accurately.
    • It is an index restricted to the socio-economic sphere of lifethe political and civil spheres are in the most part kept separate.
    • Hence there is a sub-estimation of inequality among countries, which means that this dimension is not being taken into consideration appropriately.
  • A vague concept
    • Concerning data quality and the exact construction of the index HDI is conceptually weak and empirically unsound.
    • This strong critic comes from the idea that both components of HDI are problematic. The GNP in developing countries suffers from incomplete coverage, measurement errors and biases.
    • The definition and measurement of literacy are different among countries and also, this data has not been available since 1970 in a significant number of countries.
  • Data quality issues
    • The HDI, as a combination of only four relatively simple indicators, doesn’t only raise a questions what other indicators should be included, but also how to ensure quality and comparable input data.
    • It is logical that the UNDP try to collect their data from international organizations concentrating in collecting data in specific fields.
    • Quality and trustworthiness of those data is disputable, especially when we get the information from UN non-democratic members, as for example Cuba or China.
  • A tool for mere comparison
    • The concept of HDI was set up mainly for relative comparison of countries in one particular time.
    • HDI is much better when distinguishing between countries with low and middle human development, instead of countries at the top of the ranking.
    • Therefore, the original notion was not to set up an absolute ranking, but let’s quite free hands in comparison of the results.
  • Development has to be greener
    • The human development approach has not adequately incorporated environmental conditions which may threaten long-term achievements on human development. The most pervasive failure was on environmental sustainability.
    • However, for the first time in 2020, the UNDP introduced a new metric to reflect the impact caused by each country’s per-capita carbon emissions and its material footprint.
    • This is Planetary Pressures-adjusted HDI or PHDI. It measured the amount of fossil fuels, metals and other resources used to make the goods and services it consumes.
  • Wealth can never equate welfare
    • Higher national wealth does not indicate welfare. GNI may not necessarily increase economic welfare; it depends on how it is spent.
    • For example, if a country spends more on military spending – this is reflected in higher GNI, but welfare could actually be lower.

Significance of HDI

  • It is one of the few multidimensional indices as it includes indicators such as literacy rate, enrollment ratio, life expectancy rate, infant mortality rate, etc.
  • It acts as a true yardstick to measure development in real sense.
  • Unlike per capital income, which only indicates that a rise in per capital income implies economic development; HDI considers many other vital social indicators and helps in measuring a nation’s well-being.
  • It helps as a differentiating factor to distinguish and classify different nations on the basis of their HDI ranks.

Key Highlights of Human Development Report 2021-22

Human Development Index:

  • Global scenario:
    • A combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and climate crises has dragged down the human development score in 90 percent of the countries.
      • This reduction has reversed much of the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • A large contributor to the Human Development Index’s recent decline is a global drop in life expectancy, down from 72.8 years in 2019 to 71.4 years in 2021. 
  • India’s position:
    • India’s rank on the Human Development Index has slipped from 130 in 2020 to 132 in 2021, in line with a global fall in HDI scores in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • India’s HDI value:
      • India’s HDI value stood at 0.633 during 2021, which was lower than the world average of 0.732.
        • In 2020, too, India recorded a decline in its HDI value (0.642) in comparison to the pre-Covid level of 2019 (0.645).
    • Indicator-specific values:
      • 2021:
        • India’s life expectancy at birth was recorded at 67.2 years; 
        • Expected years of schooling at 11.9 years; 
        • Mean years of schooling at 6.7 years; and 
        • Gross national income per capita (2017 PPP) at $6,590. 
      • 2022:
        • On all these four parameters, India was behind the world averages in 2021: 
        • Life expectancy at 71.4 years, 
        • Expected years of schooling at 12.8 years, 
        • Mean years of schooling at 8.6 years and 
        • Gross national income per capita (2017 PPP$) at $16,752.
    • Reasons behind India’s drop:
      • Like global trends, in India’s case, the drop in HDI from 0.645 in 2019 to 0.633 in 2021 can be attributed to falling life expectancy.
  • Parameters where India showed improvement:
    • The report highlighted some areas where India showed improvement. 
    • Inequality:
      • Compared to 2019, the impact of inequality on human development is lower. 
      • India is bridging the human development gap between men and women faster than the world. 
      • This development has come at a smaller cost to the environment.
    • Health and education:
      • The intergovernmental organisation lauded India’s investment in health and education, helping it come closer to the global human development average since 1990. 
    • Clean water, sanitation and affordable clean energy:
      • The country is improving access to clean water, sanitation and affordable clean energy.
    • Vulnerable population:
      • According to the UN recent policy decisions made by the country have increased access to social protection for the vulnerable population groups, it highlighted. 

Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index: (IHDI)

  • The IHDI indicates a percentage loss in HDI due to inequality. 
Inequality adjusted
  • For India, the IHDI value for 2019 is 0.537 (16.8% overall loss). 

Gender Development Index: (GDI)

  • GDI measures disparities in the HDI by gender.
  • For India, the GDI value for 2021 is 0.490.
    • The key HDI metric where women seem to lag behind men the most is the income per capita.
Gender Development Index

Gender Inequality Index: (GII)

Gender Inequality Index
  • GII presents a composite measure of gender inequality using three dimensions:
    • Reproductive health,
    • Empowerment and
    • The labour market.
  • In GII, India is at the 122nd rank.

Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

  • MPI captures the multiple deprivations that people in developing countries face in their health, education and standard of living.
  • As of 2019, India had more than 381 million who were suffering from multi-dimensional poverty.
Multi Dimensional matrix

Planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index:

  • It adjusts the HDI for planetary pressures in the Anthropocene to reflect a concern for intergenerational inequality, similar to the Inequality-adjusted HDI adjustment — which is motivated by a concern for intragenerational inequality.
  • The PHDI value can be interpreted as the level of human development adjusted by carbon dioxide emissions per person (production-based) and material footprint per person to account for excessive human pressure on the planet.
Planetary pressure

Reasons that human development failed to keep pace with economic development in India

  • Gaps in education: India’s literacy rate continues to rise but according to the education ministry, over 1.2 million students are out of school, most of them at the elementary level in 2022-23. This is due to a lack of quality education, inadequate infrastructure, gender gap, etc.
  • Income Disparities: Income is considered as a proxy for command over resources since access to health and education with other capabilities depends on income.
  • Social Inequality: India’s caste and communal differences have not led to proper social cohesion which is required for all sections of the society to progress.
  • Gender Inequality: Gender disparities persist in India, affecting women’s access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Gender-based discrimination and cultural norms continue to hinder women’s full participation in society.
  • Lack of Skill Development: There has been inadequate investment in skill development and vocational training programs, leading to a skills gap and reduced employability for many Indians.
  • Population: Rapid population growth in India strains resources and makes it challenging to improve human development indicators.
  • Low public expenditure: Government expenditure on health and education stands at around 2.1% and 2.9% of GDP which is very low as compared to developed nations.
  • Last mile connectivity: Better infrastructure saves time and money. With lack of infrastructure, both digital and physical, it has been hard to connect with marginalised and downtrodden.
  • Focus on top-down approach: Since independence, India has focussed on policies to percolate from central government to state to local. But the corruption and time it took to reach the last man was so big. It resulted in poor human development.
  • Resource curse: Though some states like Jharkhand have been bestowed with mineral wealth, they have been unsuccessful in utilising the resources for human development.
  • Lack of health infrastructure: Health being an integral part of human development was given less importance, resource crunch being one of the reasons.

Measures need to be taken to fast-track human development:

  • Appropriate investments in human capital(health, education and skill development) can accelerate, inclusive, and long-lasting growth while maximising the effects of India’s economy’s structural changes.
  • Good Governance: There is a need to strengthen institutions, reduce corruption, and ensure transparency in government programs.
  • Reduce Income Inequality: Implement progressive tax policies and social safety nets to reduce income disparities along with creating job opportunities and promoting fair wages, especially for low-skilled and informal workers.

Way forward

  • Both sustainable development and poverty eradication are both long-term and urgent endeavours, requiring not only the gradual and substantial redirection of country policies but a rapid response to pressing problems.
  • Ideally, sustainable development could provide an overarching framework within which all sub-goals (eg poverty eradication, social equality, ecosystem maintenance, climate compatibility) are framed.
  • It is not a subset of development; it is development (in a modern world of resource limits).
  • Environmental issues are not one factor among many but the meta-context within which poverty and other goals are sought.
  • Investing more in public research could lead to technological solutions to poverty and sustainability problems becoming more rapidly and openly available.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments