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The United Nations Development Programme released its latest human development report on Monday.  India further improved its rank to 129 among 189 countries. With the HDI value of 0.647, India has made significant improvements in the basic dimensions of human development – a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. As per the report, the overall trend globally is also towards continued human development improvements as several countries have moved up through the human development categories. But at the same time, the report this year has analysed the rising inequality worldwide. It says just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing for millions of people, the necessities to thrive have also evolved. Despite global progress in tackling poverty, hunger and disease, a “new generation of inequalities” is opening up around education, and around technology and climate change. And if left unchecked, this could trigger a ‘new great divergence’ in society of the kind not seen since the Industrial Revolution.


Human Development Index (HDI):

  • The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.
  • A country scores a higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, and the gross national income GNI (PPP) per capita is higher.
  • It was developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and was further used to measure a country’s development by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Human Development Report Office.
  • The 2010 Human Development Report introduced an Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). While the simple HDI remains useful, it stated that “the IHDI is the actual level of human development (accounting for inequality)”, and “the HDI can be viewed as an index of ‘potential’ human development (or the maximum IHDI that could be achieved if there were no inequality)”.
  • The index does not take into account several factors, such as the net wealth per capita or the relative quality of goods in a country. This situation tends to lower the ranking for some of the most advanced countries, such as the G7 members and others.



  • The origins of the HDI are found in the annual Human Development Reports produced by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • These were devised and launched by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq in 1990, and had the explicit purpose “to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people-centered policies”.
  • To produce the Human Development Reports, Mahbub ul Haq formed a group of development economists including Paul Streeten, Frances Stewart, Gustav Ranis, Keith Griffin, Sudhir Anand, and Meghnad Desai.
  • Nobel laureate Amartya Sen utilized Haq’s work in his own work on human capabilities. Haq believed that a simple composite measure of human development was needed to convince the public, academics, and politicians that they can and should evaluate development not only by economic advances but also improvements in human well-being.




The HDI combining three dimensions:

  • A long and healthy life: Life expectancy at birth
  • Education index: Mean years of schooling and Expected years of schooling
  • A decent standard of living: GNI per capita (PPP US$)


Highlights -Human Development Index 2019:

  • India ranks 129 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI) — up one slot from the 130th position last year.
  • Norway, Switzerland, Ireland occupied the top three positions in that order. Germany is placed fourth along with Hong Kong, and Australia secured the fifth rank on the global ranking.
  • Among India’s neighbours, Sri Lanka (71) and China (85) are higher up the rank scale while Bhutan (134), Bangladesh (135), Myanmar (145), Nepal (147), Pakistan (152) and Afghanistan (170) were ranked lower on the list.
  • As per the report, South Asia was the fastest growing region in human development progress witnessing a 46% growth over 1990-2018, followed by East Asia and the Pacific at 43%.
  • India’s HDI value increased by 50% (from 0.431 to 0.647), which places it above the average for other South Asian countries (0.642).
  • However, for inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), India’s position drops by one position to 130, losing nearly half the progress (.647 to .477) made in the past 30 years. The IHDI indicates percentage loss in HDI due to inequalities.
  • The report notes that group-based inequalities persist, especially affecting women and girls and no place in the world has gender equality. In the Gender Inequality Index (GII), India is at 122 out of 162 countries. Neighbours China (39), Sri Lanka (86), Bhutan (99), Myanmar (106) were placed above India.
  • The report notes that the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 as per the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It forecasts that it may take 202 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity — one of the three indicators of the GII.
  • The report presents a new index indicating how prejudices and social beliefs obstruct gender equality, which shows that only 14% of women and 10% of men worldwide have no gender bias.
  • The report notes that this indicates a backlash to women’s empowerment as these biases have shown a growth especially in areas where more power is involved, including in India.
  • The report also highlights that new forms of inequalities will manifest in future through climate change and technological transformation which have the potential to deepen existing social and economic fault lines.


Why the report is significant?

  • The Human Development Report 2019 is significant because it focuses on inequalities in development.
  • It shows inequalities beyond income which exist in society.
  • It also measures loss in the human development progress due to inequalities.
  • The report also highlights the gender gaps in development.



The Human Development Index has been criticized on a number of grounds, including

  • Alleged lack of consideration of technological development or contributions to the human civilization,
  • Focusing exclusively on national performance and ranking,
  • Lack of attention to development from a global perspective,
  • Measurement error of the underlying statistics, and on the UNDP’s changes in formula which can lead to severe misclassification in the categorisation of “low”, “medium”, “high” or “very high” human development countries.

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