7 PM |Inequality and its discontents| 10th December 2019

Context: Human Development Report 2019 and its findings.

More in news:

  • Human Development Report 2019 has been released recently.
  • The report is titled, “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century”.
  • India climbed one spot to 129 in the latest human development released by UNDP.

Human development report:

  • Human development index (HDI) report is released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • The HDI is the composite measure of every country’s attainment in three basic dimensions:
  • Health measured by the life expectancy at birth.
  • Education levels calculated by mean years of education among the adult population and the expected years of schooling for children.
  • Standard of living measured by the gross national income (GNI) per capita.

Human Development Report 2019:

  • The 2019 Report is titled, “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century”.
  • It is important to note that Oxfam’s inequality estimates from earlier this year suggest the top 10 per cent of the Indian population holds 77 per cent of the total national wealth.
  • However, inequality is not just about disparities in wealth distribution. A large number of Indians not only have very low income, but their opportunities for healthcare, education and social security are dreadfully inadequate. UNDP’s 2019 Human Development Report (HDR) explores precisely these inequalities in human development, by going beyond income and identifying the deep-rooted systemic drivers of inequality.
  • Exploring inequalities in human development thus has to go beyond income, beyond averages and beyond today, leading to five key messages:
  • While many people are stepping above minimum floors of achievement in human development, widespread disparities remain.
  • A new generation of severe inequalities in human development is emerging, even if many of the unresolved inequalities of the 20th century are declining. Under the shadow of the climate crisis and sweeping technological change, inequalities in human development are taking new forms in the 21st century.
  • Inequalities in human development can accumulate through life, frequently heightened by deep power imbalances.
  • Assessing inequalities in human development demands a revolution in metrics.
  • Redressing inequalities in human development in the 21st century is possible—if we act now, before imbalances in economic power translate into entrenched political dominance.

Recent Findings of the report:

  • Norway at 0.95 has been ranked the highest on the HDI scale while Niger is the bottom at 0.35.
  • India Climbed one spot to 129 out of 189 countries in 2019 as compared to rank 130 in 2018 report.
  • India’s HDI value for 2018 is 0.647, which put the country in the medium human development category positioning it at 129 out of 189 countries and territories.
  • Between 1990 and 2018, India’s HDI value increased from 0.431 to 0.647, an increase of 50.0 percent.
  • Between 1990 and 2018, India’s life expectancy at birth increased by 11.6 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.5 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.7 years.
  • India’s GNI per capita increased by about 262.9 percent between 1990 and 2018.
  • From South Asia, countries which are close to India in 2018 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Bangladesh and Pakistan, which have HDIs ranked 135 and 152 respectively.
  • Gender Development Index: The GDI is calculated for 166 countries. The 2018 female HDI value for India is 0.574 in contrast with 0.692 for males, resulting in a GDI value of 0.829, placing it into Group 5.
Gender Development Index: In the 2014 HDR, a new measure, “the Gender Development Index (GDI)” was introduced. It is based on the sex-disaggregated Human Development Index, defined as a ratio of the female to the male HDI.The GDI measures gender inequalities in achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: health (measured by female and male life expectancy at birth), education (measured by female and male expected years of schooling for children and mean years for adults aged 25 years and older) and command over economic resources (measured by female and male estimated GNI per capita).Countries with absolute deviation from gender parity of more than 10 percent are considered countries with low equality in HDI achievements between women and men and are classified as group 5.  


  • Gender Inequality Index: The Gender Inequality Index (GII) reflects gender-based disadvantage in three dimensions—reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market.
  • It ranges from 0, where women and men fare equally, to 1, where one gender fares as poorly as possible in all measured dimensions.
  • India has a GII value of 0.501, ranking it 122 out of 162 countries.
  • In comparison, Bangladesh and Pakistan are ranked at 129 and 136 respectively on this index.
  • Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI): The 2010 HDR introduced the MPI, which identifies multiple overlapping deprivations suffered by individuals
  • In India, 27.9 percent of the population (373,735 thousand people) are multidimensionally poor while an additional 19.3 percent are classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty (258,002 thousand people).
  • The multidimensional poverty headcount is 6.7 percentage points higher than income poverty. This implies that individuals living above the income poverty line may still suffer deprivations in health, education and/or satandard of living.

Climate change and inequalities in human development:

  • Inequality and the climate crisis are interwoven—from emissions and impacts to policies and resilience. Countries with higher human development generally emit more carbon per person and have higher ecological footprints overall.
  • Climate change will hurt human development in many ways beyond crop failures and natural disasters.
  • Climate change will hit the tropics harder first, and many developing countries are in the tropics. At the same time, developing countries and poor and vulnerable communities have fewer capacities to adapt to climate change and severe weather events than do their richer counterparts.
  • The negative impacts of climate change extend to health and education. Between 2030 and 2050 climate change is expected to cause some 250,000 additional deaths a year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
  • If disasters tend to hit disadvantaged people harder, climate change could make vicious cycles of low outcomes and low opportunities more persistent.
  • Millions of Indians in low-lying coastal areas are exposed to a rise in sea levels.
  • Around two-fifths of the population subsist on agriculture that relies on increasingly erratic rainfall and fluctuating temperatures. 


  • The report reminds decision-makers of the importance of providing basic services to their people and of equipping them to live with dignity.
  • Further, the report underlines that poor people should be protected from the fallout of climate change and benefit from modern breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and robotics.
  • It is noteworthy that India is no longer a country languishing largely in extreme poverty. It is a country with pervasive inequality, pockets of deep deprivations and vulnerable populations.
  • Thus, India has invested in important building blocks to equip its people to thrive rather than just survive. A focus on rights-based entitlements, for example, work through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) and technological innovations such as to open bank accounts and facilitate digital payments to beneficiaries has gone some way towards improving living standards.
  • New insurance schemes for universal health coverage, crop-failure and accidents reflect a momentum for action to tackle inequality. These measures are absolutely crucial in reaching those left furthest behind.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/2019-human-development-report-india-inequality-poverty-economic-growth-6158809/

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