UN Human Development Index report notes less poverty but grave inequality in India

By Prarthana Mitra

India now ranks 130 in the United Nations Human Development Index among 189 countries, in terms of standard of living, public health and literacy.

The report for 2018 was released by United Nations Development Programme this week, and marks an improvement by one spot from last year, with an HDI value of 0.64 compared to last year’s 0.636. According to Indian Express, India’s HDI value has increased from 0.427 to 0.640, registering a 50% increase between 1990 and 2017.

While noting that millions in the country have risen above poverty, the report also revealed glaring economic inequalities and ascribed a medium human development status to India. According to 2018 HDI, the value of India’s Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI) falls by a fourth to 0.468, which is significantly higher than the average rate for decrease due to inequality (the global average is 20%). Niger, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Chad and Burundi have the lowest scores in the HDI.

On gender and economic inequality

The HDI which measures a nation’s development with respect standard of living, literacy and health, takes into account the gross national income (GNI) per capita, life expectancy at birth, the mean years of education among the adult population and the expected years of schooling for children.

While the report noted that people are living longer, are more educated, and have greater income today than in 1990, inequality is evident in the “massive differences across the world in people’s well-being.” For example, in a country with very high HDI like Norway, Switzerland, Australia or Ireland, a child usually lives up to 80 years, compared to India where life expectancy at birth, despite increasing by 11 years over the last two decades, is still at 60.

Children tend to stay in school for 4.7 years longer than they did in 1990, and yet, there is stark inequality in the access to and outcomes of education programmes. The discrepancy is even more pronounced when it comes to women, as India ranks 127 among 60 nations on the Gender Inequality Index. This assessment depends on reproductive health, empowerment, representation, and economic activity. In India, women occupy only 11.66% of parliamentary seats, only 39% of them have secondary education (compared to 64 per cent men) and only 27.2% participation in the workforce compared to 78.8% for men and 49% women in the world.

The highest leap has been in India’s GNI per capita which registered a 266 per cent increase between 1990 and 2017. The report acknowledged these quantifiable overall growths but urged the government to take active measures for the pockets of deprivation that remain responsible for bringing the HDI down. It also recommended building climate resilience for improving the index score, drawing special reference to the Kerala floods.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius



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