India has ranked 132 of 191 countries on the 2021/22 Human Development Index (HDI), a report by United Nation Development Program (UNDP) said on Thursday. In 2020, India was at 130.
However, UNDP says the ranking cannot be comparable as in 2020, the HDI was measured for 189 countries, and this year, the value has been calculated for 191 countries. It also said India’s latest rank reflects global trend as 9 out of 10 countries have fallen backward in human development in the face of multiple crises like Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and dangerous planetary changes.
For the first time, human development has declined for two years in a row, with 90 per cent of the countries registering a decline in their HDI value in 2020 or 2021. At the same time, it acknowledged that compared to 2019, the impact of inequality on human development is lower in India.
Falling life expectancy
HDI measures progress on three key dimensions of human development — a long and healthy life, access to education, and a decent standard of living. It is calculated using four indicators — life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
UNDP said like the global trends, in India’s case, the drop in HDI from 0.645 in 2019 to 0.633 in 2021 can be attributed to falling life expectancy — 69.7 to 67.2 years. India’s expected years of schooling stand at 11.9 years, and the mean years of schooling are at 6.7 years. The GNI per capita level is $6,590.
Shoko Noda, UNDP Resident Representative in India, says the report shows that the progress globally is in reverse. India’s decline in human development mirrors this trend, impacted by intersecting crises. But there is good news. “Compared to 2019, the impact of inequality on human development is lower. India is bridging the human development gap between men and women faster than the world. This development has come at a smaller cost to the environment,” she said.
Further she added that India‘s growth story reflects the country’s investments in inclusive growth, social protection, gender-responsive policies and push towards renewables to ensure no one is left behind. The report mentioned that India‘s HDI value has been steadily catching up to the world average since 1990 — indicating a faster than the global rate of progress in human development. This is a result of policy choices made by the country over time, including investments made in health and education, it said.
The report confirms that a business-as-usual policy and programmatic response are not tenable in the current circumstances. It recommended implementing policies that focus on ‘3 Is’ — investment: from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics; insurance: including social protection, to prepare societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world; and innovation: in its many forms — technological, economic, cultural — can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next.
“Policies that focus on the thee Is will enable people to thrive in the face of uncertainty. India is already a frontrunner in these areas with its push towards renewable energy, boosting social security for the most vulnerable and driving the world’s largest vaccination drive through Co-WIN, supported by UNDP,” added Shoko Noda.
The report highlighted that over the last decade, India has lifted a staggering 271 million out of multidimensional poverty. India has also boosted access to social protection for vulnerable sections of society, especially during and after the pandemic, with a 9.8 percent increase in the budgetary allocation to the Social Services sector in 2021-22 over 2020-21.