Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Poor Performance of India in HDI



  • India’s position in Human Development Index 2016 of UNDP has dropped by 1 rank.

Highlights of the Report for 2016

  • India’s human development index (HDI) ranking for 2016 puts us at 131st among 188 countries with HDI value 0.624—which puts the country in the “medium” category of human development category alongside countries such as Congo, Namibia and Pakistan.
  • It is ranked third among the SAARC countries, but behind fellow South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives which are at 73 and 105 ranks respectively in the “high human development” category.
  • The world’s top three countries in HDI are Norway (0.949), Australia (0.939) and Switzerland (0.939).
  • The report praised India’s reservation policy, MNREGA, National Food Security Act, RTI and RTE Acts.
  • It commended the Indian grassroots group Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan for popularising social audits of government schemes.
  • India’s HDI value increased from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.624 in 2015, it still had the lowest rank among BRICS nations. However, its average annual growth in HDI (1990-2015) was higher than that of other medium HD countries.
  • The regional disparities in education, health and living standards within India—or inequality in human development—shave off 27% from India’s HDI score.
  • 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.

Background on HDI

The HDI is based on the assumption that economic growth/development does not necessarily equate to human development or increased well-being. This index measures the impact of growth (or lack thereof) on people rather than on the economy.

  • The Human Development Index (HDI) was created to emphasize that expanding human choices should be the ultimate criteria for assessing development results. Economic growth is a means to that process, but is not an end by itself.
  • The HDI can also be used to question national policy choices, asking how two countries with the same level of GNI per capita can end up with different human development outcomes. For example, Malaysia has GNI per capita higher than Chile, but in Malaysia, life expectancy at birth is about 7 years shorter and expected years of schooling is 2.5 years shorter than Chile, resulting in Chile having a much higher HDI value than Malaysia. These striking contrasts can stimulate debate about government policy priorities.
  • It was developed by the UN Development Program.
  • The HDI measures health, education and income:
    • life expectancy
    • access to education and adult literacy
    • years of schooling
    • equitable distribution of income
    • GDP per person (gauges command over resources) is adjusted to reflect Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)
    • achievements in health
    • gender equity

Criticism of the ranking system

  • Some critics argue that these measures are flawed and do not create an accurate picture of prosperity.
  • HDI assigns weight to certain factors that are more common in developed economies but may not indicate a higher level of success or human happiness.
  • Some critics challenge the inclusion of education in the calculation. High levels of education, while valuable for many pursuits, may not be necessarily be a clear indicator of prosperity.
  • Countries with high per-capita GDP and long life spans would not necessarily achieve high HDI index scores if their overall literacy rate and educational attainment were low. The index assigns equal weight to education, health and wealth when these measurements may not always be equally valuable.
  • The HDI assigns a lesser weight to GDP, although a nation’s overall production may have a substantial impact on prosperity for many people.

What should India do to improve ranking?

Despite, all the criticism, the index is designed to consider other factors besides wealth, allowing a multifaceted examination of global prosperity and emerging market nations.

India needs to address the three parameters of human development separately—and simultaneously.

  • First, it cannot possibly envisage a long and healthy life without addressing the issue of malnutrition which is plaguing it. The recent improvements in nutrition have been noteworthy but not enough.
  • Second, in terms of knowledge, India needs to ensure access and quality through effective implementation of schemes such as Digital India and Skill India.
  • Third, for a higher standard of living, it should ensure that work is quantitatively and qualitatively enhanced in the country. The country’s efforts in terms of employment guarantee schemes have been lauded for its role in reducing unemployment. But it is by no means a long-term remedy. India needs to reform its rigid labour market governed by obsolete laws, address problems of child labour and forced labour, and bring about wage equality.
  • One crucial metric that gets insufficient attention in the measurement of development is the state of democracy, reflected among other things in access to justice.
  • India has not ratified UN conventions on torture, rights of migrant workers and their families, and protection against enforced disappearance. This is a serious lacuna for a country that otherwise has a commitment to democracy and the rule of law.


  • Development is now a multidimensional achievement, the gains achieved from the 25 years of LPG reforms must help build capabilities and improve the health of all sections.
  • We need to also handle the challenges such as urbanisation, the housing deficit, access to power, water, education and health care.
  • A central focus on social indicators is necessary for India to break free from its position as an underachiever.

[su_box title=”Practice Questions” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#99bb41″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”20″]

  1. India has shown no signs of improvement in the ranking of HDI in last 3-4 years. What are the reasons and suggest ways to improve the ranking?


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