India has climbed one spot to 130 in the latest human development rankings released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). India’s HDI value for 2017 is 0.640, which put the country in the medium human development category. Between 1990 and 2017, India’s HDI value increased from 0.427 to 0.640, an increase of nearly 50 percent – and an indicator of the country’s remarkable achievement in lifting millions of people out of poverty.
Of a total of 189 countries, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Ireland and Germany lead the ranking, while Niger, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Chad and Burundi have the lowest scores in the HDI’s measurement of national achievements in health, education and income. Within South Asia, India’s HDI value is above the average of 0.638 for the region, with Bangladesh and Pakistan, countries with similar population size, being ranked 136 and 150 respectively.
The overall trend globally is toward continued human development improvements, with many countries moving up through the human development categories: out of the 189 countries for which the HDI is calculated, 59 countries are today in the very high human development group and only 38 countries fall in the low HDI group. Just eight years ago in 2010, the figures were 46 and 49countries respectively.
Movements in the HDI are driven by changes in health, education and income. Health has improved considerably as shown by life expectancy at birth, which has increased by almost seven years globally, with Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia showing the greatest progress, each experiencing increases of about 11 years since 1990. And, today’s school-age children can expect to be in school for 3.4 years longer than those in 1990.
Between 1990 and 2017, India’s life expectancy at birth too increased by nearly 11 years, with even more significant gains in expected years of schooling. Today’s Indian school-age children can expect to stay in school for 4.7 years longer than in 1990. Whereas, India’s GNI per capita increased by a staggering 266.6 percent between 1990 and 2017.
Average HDI levels have risen significantly since 1990-22 percent globally and 51percent in least developed countries – reflecting that on average people are living longer, are more educated and have greater income. But there remain massive differences across the world in people’s well-being.
A child born today in Norway, the country with the highest HDI, can expect to live beyond 82 years old and spend almost 18 years in school. While a child born in Niger, the country with the lowest HDI, can expect only to live to 60 and spend just five years in school. Such striking differences can be seen again and again.
“On average, a child born today in a country with low human development can expect to live just over 60 years, while a child born in a country with very high human development can expect to live to almost 80. Similarly, children in low human development countries can expect to be in school seven years less than children in very high human development countries,” said Achim Steiner UNDP Administrator. “While these statistics present a stark picture in themselves, they also speak to the tragedy of millions of individuals whose lives are affected by inequity and lost opportunities, neither of which are inevitable.”
A closer look at the HDI’s components sheds light on the unequal distribution of outcomes in education, life expectancy and income within countries. The Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) allows one to compare levels of inequality within countries, and the greater the inequality, the more a country’s HDI falls.
While significant inequality occurs in many countries, including in some of the wealthiest ones, on average it takes a bigger toll on countries with lower human development levels. Low and medium human development countries lose respectively 31 and 25 percent of their human development level from inequality, while for very high human development countries, the average loss is 11 percent.
“While there is ground for optimism that the gaps are narrowing, disparities in people’s well-being are still unacceptably wide. Inequality in all its forms and dimensions, between and within countries, limits people’s choices and opportunities, withholding progress,” said Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.
As much as 26.8 percent of India’s HDI value is lost on account of inequalities — a greater loss than for most of its South Asian neighbours (the average loss for the region is 26.1 percent). This confirms that inequality remains a challenge for India as it progresses economically, though the Government of India and various state governments have, through a variety of social protection measures, attempted to ensure that the gains of economic development are shared widely and reach the farthest first.
Francine Pickup, Country Director, UNDP India, noted the steady progress made by India in improving its HDI value. “The Government of India is committed to improve the quality of life for all its people. The success of India’s national development schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Swachh Bharat, Make in India, and initiatives aimed at universalizing school education and health care, will be crucial in ensuring that the upward trend on human development accelerates and also achieve the Prime Minister’s vision of development for all and the key principle of the Sustainable Development Goals — to leave no one behind.”
One key source of inequality within countries is the gap in opportunities, achievements and empowerment between women and men. Worldwide the average HDI for women is six percent lower than for men, due to women’s lower income and educational attainment in many countries.
Although there has been laudable progress in the number of girls attending school, there remain big differences between other key aspects of men and women’s lives. Women’s empowerment remains a particular challenge.
Global labour force participation rates for women are lower than for men-49 percent versus 75 percent. And when women are in the labour market, their unemployment rates are 24 percent higher than their male counterparts. Women globally also do much more unpaid domestic and care work than men.
Overall, women’s share of parliamentary seats remains low although it varies across regions, from 17.5 and 18 percent in South Asia and the Arab States, respectively; to 29 percent in Latin America and Caribbean and OECD countries. Violence against women affects all societies, and in some regions childhood marriage and high adolescence birth rates undermine the opportunities for many young women and girls. In South Asia, 29 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before their 18thbirthday.
These challenges are also evident in India, where despite considerable progress at the policy and legislative levels, women remain significantly less politically, economically and socially empowered than men. For instance, women hold only 11.6 percent of parliamentary seats, and only 39 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education as compared to 64 percent males. Female participation in the labour market is 27.2 percent compared to 78.8 for men. Still, India performs better than its neighbours Bangladesh and Pakistan, ranking 127 out 160 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.