India’s rank remains unchanged in the Human Development Report (HDR) 2014, 135 out of 187 countries, despite significant acceleration on its road towards achieving the millennium development goals — the deadline for which expires next year.
Despite a significantly higher gross national income than other countries in the region like Bangladesh (142) and Pakistan (146), India’s ranking remained low because of poor social indicators. While it still managed to remain marginally above the two countries, India suffered the ignominy of having the lowest life expectancy (66.4 years) and the lowest mean years of schooling (4.4 years) in the region.
Smaller SAARC countries like Sri Lanka (73) and Maldives (103) have pipped India in the rankings.
India also has the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) among all BRICS nations, with its life expectancy higher only than South Africa which is still grappling with second generation HIV-AIDS patients. Russia, Brazil and China are in the high HDI category with rankings of 57, 79 and 91 respectively.
A “Gender Inequality Index”, which has been introduced for the first time this year, exposes India’s weaknesses even more. While India’s HDI for males was 0.627 — the highest in South Asia — its HDI for females was 0.519 — higher only than Pakistan — pulling down its overall score.
India fared even worse when adjustments were made for all inequalities — a result of social and economic disparities. Discounted for inequality, India’s HDI falls to 0.418 — a loss of 28.6 per cent. The average loss for inequality for medium HDI countries is 25.6 per cent. For South Asia, the average loss is 28.7 per cent. Among BRICS countries, Brazil comes second in terms of inequality losses with its HDI reduced by 26.3 per cent. Among 145 countries, India ranks 98 on inequality adjusted HDI, against 95 for Brazil and 45 for Russia.
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India’s performance on millennium development goals, however, is commendable with its progress found to be on track on most parameters.
Even on maternal health — the only parameter in which India’s progress is adjudged slow in the Statistical Year Book 2014 brought out by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation — UNDP officials say progress has actually been good and India underestimated its own achievement.
Meanwhile, the countries at the top of the list — Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and the United States — and at the bottom — Niger, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone — remain constant.
The report concludes that while human development levels continue to rise, they do so at a slower pace than before. The deceleration is due to a slowdown in economy, slow growth in expected years of schooling and declining growth rates of life expectancy, particularly in Asia.
The HDR is an annual report brought out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 1990. HDI is assessed on the basis of three parameters — long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. The statistics that were taken into account were life expectancy at birth, mean years of education among the adult population, the expected years of schooling for children of school entry age and the gross national income in 2011 international dollars, converted using purchasing power parity rates.