India may have little to feel proud about in the findings of UNDP’s Human Development Report for 2014, but the good news is that with ongoing rural employment and school education programmes and some serious discussions on universal healthcare over the last couple of years, it is moving in the right direction. The report gives a six-point prescription for bettering HDI, and India, it estimates, would need to spend just four per cent of its GDP to achieve the most important of those recommendations — a social security net.
“The report estimates that India needs to spend just four per cent of its GDP to ensure a social security net that would include NREGA, universal primary health coverage, old age and disabled pensions and child benefits,” said Lise Grande, United Nations resident coordinator in India.
“Evidence shows that this kind of net would have multiple benefits; it would protect the gains that have been made in human development and also accelerate India’s growth,” Grande said. “Grids like an energy grid and transport grids are crucial for growth and have contributed significantly in many countries to better human development. The thinking of the present government on infrastructure priorities is definitely on the right track,”
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The UN has been in talks with the government on the matter but is said to be waiting for a final call to be taken on the priorities of the new government and the resources available, which would have to be decided principally between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance.
The other affordable solutions given in the report are universal basic services (including healthcare and education), targeting the three most vulnerable phases in a person’s life (first 1,000 days of birth, when s/he enters the labour force and when s/he leaves it) full employment, inclusion and disaster preparedness.
In fact, in a small celebration of India’s achievement on the last front, an example has been made out of Orissa’s disaster preparedness. In 1999 when a major cyclone hit Orissa, 10,000 people were impacted. In 2013 when a cyclone of the same magnitude hit the state, less than 50 died.
Apart from the life cycle-based risks, the report also points out that certain categories of people are more at risk because of social and economic factors. Poor people are most at risk, women suffer more than men, minorities and the elderly are at higher risk and the disabled represent the largest category of at-risk people in the world.
The report seeks to sound an alarm about what it calls “shaky foundations” of the progress made so far on account of 1.5 billion multidimensionally poor people — they are deprived on health, education and living standard parameters — around the world. A staggering 80 per cent of them do not have social security, half of all the workers in the world are in insecure jobs, and more than 15 per cent of the world’s population are close to falling back into poverty. The four main culprits are climate change, conflict, economic crisis and social unrest.
A nation’s well-being defined with four key indices, one reintroduced
The Human Development Report for 2014 reintroduces a gender development index based on a sex-disaggregated HDI, defined as the ratio of the female HDI to the male HDI. GDI measures gender inequalities in achieving the three basic dimensions of human development. GDI was part of the report till 2010 but had then been taken out.
With a female HDI of 0.519 and a male HDI for 0.627, India’s GDI is 0.828. Bangladesh has a GDI of 0.908 — it has a better female HDI than India’s — and Pakistan has 0.750. Pakistan, incidentally, has the lowest female HDI in the region.
Three other broad indices that the report gives out are a multidimensional poverty index, a gender inequality index, and an inequality-adjusted HDI. All three were introduced for the first time in 2010.
MPI identifies multiple deprivations in the same household in education, health and living standards.
Gender inequality index reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions — reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity. Reproductive health is measured by maternal mortality and adolescent birth rates; empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women and attainment in secondary and higher education by gender; and economic activity is measured by the labour market participation rate for women and men. (with inputs from ENS)