India has dropped two spots on the Human Development Index, according to the 2020 Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme on Wednesday.
Asia’s third-largest economy ranked 131 among 189 countries in 2019, according to the report that measures national progress not by income or gross domestic product alone, but by development indicators such as educational attainment, health outcomes and standard of living.
Bhutan and Namibia have overtaken India, and were placed at the 129th and 130th spots.
“India’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.645 — which put the country in the medium human development category — positioning it at 131 out of 189 countries and territories. Between 1990 and 2019, India’s HDI value increased from 0.429 to 0.645, an increase of 50.3 percent,” the report said.
Norway came out on the top of the index, followed closely by Ireland and Switzerland.
Among a clutch of South Asian nations, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia and Pakistan were ranked under a grouping of countries with medium human development.
In contrast, among emerging Asian economies, Malaysia ranked 62, figuring in a category of countries with very high human development. Sri Lanka, Thailand and China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam ranked lower that Malaysia, but were ahead of India and classified as economies with high human development.
India’s gross national income per capita fell to $6,681 in 2019 from $6,829 in 2018 on a purchasing power parity basis, the report said.
India figured in the bottom third for most development indicators, including quality of health and education and an adverse sex ratio, according to the report. The country also ranked in the bottom third for a high percentage of people in vulnerable employment.
India, however, figured in the top third grouping of countries with a lower unemployment rate and high representation of women in elected local governments.
The idea of human development, pioneered by economists Mahbub al Haq through the UNDP’s Human Development Reports, and Amartya Sen, who weighed in with a conceptual and theoretical framework for it, has now become an influential paradigm for development.
According to the pioneers of human development, such as Sen, human development is about people, not the economy and involved enlarging of choices that people value, such as longer and healthier life and education, along with income.
According to this approach, economic development, or growth, is only one of the things necessary for the fulfilment of some larger goals of human well-being.
The first Human Development Report 1990 defined human development as the “process of enlarging people’s choices”. Apart from income, this basket includes basic critical necessities, such as livelihoods, good health, freedom, nutrition and even dignity. In other words, a general sense of well-being.
The philosophical underpinnings of such an approach is that the people are at the centre. Human beings aren’t mere resources for the economy or a factor of production.
“The concept of human development is that people must have access to certain choice that enhance their capabilities. India’s slip on the global ranking is concerning, underscoring the need for higher investment in social infrastructure rather than a preoccupation with industrial development,” said Ashish Pai, a member of India’s first state-level human development index brought out by Madhya Pradesh in 1995.