India ranks a low 130 out of 189 countries in the latest human development Index (HDI) released by the United Nations Development Programme Friday, with the findings indicating a glaring inequality in the country though “millions have been lifted out of poverty”.
The UNDP report stated that with an HDI value of 0.64 compared to last year’s 0.636, India is categorised as a medium human development and that its rank rose one spot compared to the 2017 HDI.
According to the 2018 findings, between 1990 and 2017, India’s HDI value increased from 0.427 to 0.640, an almost 50 per cent increase, which is “an indicator that millions have been lifted out of poverty”. At the same time, in what signals the glaring inequality in the country, the HDI value declines by more than a fourth when adjusted for inequality. The value of India’s Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI) falls to 0.468, a 26.8 per cent decrease, far worse than the global average decrease in the global HDI value due to inequality at 20 per cent.
The HDI is the composite measure of every country’s attainment in three basic dimensions: standard of living measured by the gross national income (GNI) per capita, health measured by the life expectancy at birth, and education levels calculated by mean years of education among the adult population and the expected years of schooling for children.
The report states that on an average, people are living longer, are more educated, and have greater income today as is evident in the rise in average HDI levels since 1990 at 22 per cent globally. The least developed countries registered a 51 per cent increase. In keeping with the global trend, in the last 17 years since 1990, India registered a 50 per cent increase.
In this period, life expectancy at birth in the country has increased by 11 years and children have been predicted to stay in school for 4.7 years longer than in 1990. The highest leap has been in India’s GNI per capita which registered a 266 per cent increase between 1990 and 2017.
However, despite the strides made overall, inequality manifests in the “massive differences across the world in people’s well-being” with a child born in a low HDI country expected to live just over 60 years as compared to a very high HDI country where a child could live up to 80 years. Likewise, children in low HDI countries are expected to be in school seven years fewer than children in very high HDI countries.
This unequal distribution of outcomes is visible not just between countries but also within each country, according to the report. In India’s case, the inequality-adjusted HDI of 26.8 per cent is due to the stark inequality in access to education, health, and income.
“India’s HDI has increased tremendously in the last two and half decades. However, we need to focus on inequality and the pockets of deprivation that are dragging the HDI down. Gender inequality is another big issue which adversely affects human development. This inequality is mainly due to the very low economic participation of women in India,” Francine Pickup, Country Director, UNDP India told The Indian Express.
Globally, the average HDI for women is six per cent lower than for men, due to women’s lower income and educational attainment in many countries. India ranks 127 out of 160 countries on the Gender Inequality Index which reflects gender-based inequalities in reproductive health, empowerment (political and educational), and economic activity.
The report notes that in India women hold only 11.6 per cent of parliamentary seats, while only 39 per cent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education as compared to 64 per cent men. India’s worst performance on the gender scale is with regards to its female participation in the labour market which is 27.2 per cent compared to 78.8 per cent for men even as globally 49 per cent women are part of the labour force as compared to 75 per cent men.
According to Francine, another area that India needs to focus on, to ensure sustained HDI growth, is climate resilience. “This is one factor that can constrain HDI. What we saw in Kerala recently with regards to how quickly and robustly the state dealt with the floods is an indicator of its strong HDI to withstand climate pressures and constraints,” she said.
Norway at 0.95 has been ranked the highest on the HDI scale while Niger is the bottom at 0.35. The greatest increase in HDI rank over the last five years is by Ireland followed by Turkey while the worst decline was seen in conflict-hit countries of Syria, Libya, and Yemen.