New Delhi: India’s human development index (HDI) ranking for 2015 puts Asia’s third largest economy among a group of countries classed as “medium” in the list, as opposed to “low” in the 1990s, thanks to factors such as an increase in life expectancy and mean years of schooling in the past 25 years.
But the bad news from the report released on Tuesday in Stockholm is that regional disparities in education, health and living standards within India—or inequality in human development—shave off 27% from India’s HDI score.
As it stands, India is ranked 131 out of 188 countries in a list that is topped by Norway.
Yuri Afanasiev, UN resident coordinator for India, noted India’s progress in its HDI score between 1990 and 2015. “The success of national development programmes like Skill India, Digital India, Make in India and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, aimed at bridging gaps in human development, will be crucial in ensuring the success of Agenda 2030,” Afanasiev said, referring to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals unveiled in 2015.
“These programmes, and the long-running affirmative action measures, illustrate the government’s commitment to identifying and mapping human development deficits, as well as taking action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
India’s HDI value for 2015 is 0.624—which puts the country in the medium human development category but behind fellow South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India’s 2015 score is up from 0.428 in 1990, i.e. an increase of 45.8% between 1990-2015. India’s improved HDI value is second among BRICS countries, with China recording the highest improvement—48%.
“Between 1990 and 2015, India’s life expectancy at birth increased by 10.4 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.3 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.1 years,” the report said, adding that India’s Gross National Income, or GNI, per capita increased by about 223.4% during the same period. This was mainly due to India adopting market reforms, attracting investment and devoting more resources to social development in the sectors of health and education.
Since the HDI is an average measure of basic human development achievements in a country, it “masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population at the country level,” the HDI report points out. “The ‘loss’ in human development due to inequality is given by the difference between the HDI and inequality adjusted HDI, or IHDI,” says the report. “As the inequality in a country increases, the loss in human development also increases,” it explains.
So if India’s HDI score for 2015 is 0.624, when this value is discounted for inequality, the HDI falls to 0.454, a loss of 27.2% “due to inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices,” the report says. In the case of “medium” HDI countries, the average loss due to inequality is 25.7%, and for South Asia as a whole it is 27.7%.
In South Asia, countries that are close to India in HDI rank with a comparable population size are Bangladesh and Pakistan, which are ranked 139 and 147, respectively.
The HDI report also showed that almost 1.5 billion people in developing countries live in multi-dimensional poverty. Of this, 54%, or 800 million people, are in South Asia while 34% are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In almost every country, certain groups are more disadvantaged than others and the gaps are likely to widen over time as shocks and crises impact them most. These disadvantaged groups include women and young girls, indigenous people, ethnic minorities and migrants and refugees.