Friday, December 16, 2011

HDI: India going up, but not that fast

Sopan Correspondent / New Delhi

But on the gender inequality index, India has turned out to be the worst even among the neighbouring countries with an average ratio of 0.617

Even as gender empowerment continues to be a nig hurdle, which needs to be substantially addressed, India has gradually moved from the low bracket to the medium bracket on theUnited Nations-Development Programme (UNDP) sponsored Human Development Index (HDI). In the ranking among the comity of 187 nations, India stood at 134 in the HDI report, which was released in the first week of November.
Keeping in view the growth story of India, no doubt the country is shining and is expected to become the world's third largest economy by 2030. But would this be enough for a country, which has a population size of more than 125 crore. Certainly not, as for the real development of the country, the human side of development is a must. This will include reducing inequality, improving health and education and enlarging and empowering women participation.
The UNDP's study on HDI, which is mostly measures for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development, such as a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living, ranked India at the bottom of the middle level nation with rank 134. The HDI measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development, which included a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth, knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate and a decent standard of living, as measured by Gross National Income per capita based on purchasing power parity in terms of the US dollar.
Despite criticism and controversies around it, HDI continues to get support from many for being an excellent tool for measuring development, as it encompasses both economic and social indicator.
Even as India has been ranked 137 among 187 countries in terms of HDI-2011, it is found that ranking of any particular country is not comparable over years because of changes in methodology and the number of countries covered, between 1980 and 2011, India's HDI value increased from 0.344 to 0.547 for 2011. This is no mean achievement. An index below 0.5 is treated as low human development, and above 0.8 as high human development and, in between, as medium human development. India has moved from a low level to medium level of human development.
The latest HDI report has, however, pointed out that India's HDI of 0.547 continued to be below the average of 0.630 for countries in the medium human development group and below the average of 0.548 for countries in South Asia.
If an attempt is made to see how India fares in terms of certain key parameters constituting HDI, among select countries, in particular its neighbours, it is found that the country is much lower than that of China and Sri Lanka, but only a shade better than those of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
If we take out the income element, that is the economic element and consider only the social element in terms of 'non-income HDI', India's position improved from 0.547 to 0.568, but similar index for other countries improved much more significantly. That would mean, in terms of social dimensions, India relatively lagged behind these countries. This is evident from studying some individual components of certain social indicators. To understand the phenomena one can see the table given in the midst of the article.
The life expectancy at birth at 65.4 years in India is comparable to Pakistan, but turned out to be lower than those of Bangladesh (68.9 years), Nepal ( 68.8 years), Sri Lanka (74.9 years) and China (73.5 years). The mean years of schooling at 4.4 years was lower than even those of Pakistan and Bangladesh, but much worse compared with Sri Lanka (8.2 years) and China (7.5 years).
It must, however, be added that in terms of expected years of schooling, which measures the number of years of schooling that a child of school entrance age can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrolment rates persist throughout the child's life, India stands out much better compared with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, and also does not compare that unfavourably with other countries.
This shows that education facilities that are made available and expected to be made available in India would better take care of the growing young population in the country and make them skilled enough to reap the demographic dividend in the coming years. What is most surprising is that as regards the gender inequality index - which is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievements between men and women in three dimensions, namely reproductive health, empowerment and labour markets - India turns out to be the worst with an index of 0.617 (higher the ratio, higher is the inequality). This compares unfavourably with Pakistan (0.573), Bangladesh (0.550), Nepal (0.558) Sri Lanka (0.419) and China (0.209).
In terms of female labour force participation at 32.8 per cent, India fared better than Pakistan (21.7 per cent), but not so with other countries: China (64.7 per cent), Sri Lanka (34.2 per cent), Bangladesh (58.7 per cent) and Nepal (63.3 per cent).
The maternal mortality rate at 230 per lakh of live births in India is worse and equally so in other compared countries with the exception of China and Sri Lanka.
In terms of improving education and health, while India has not fared very poorly compared with some of its neighbours, policy makers must pay serious attention to enlarging the role and participation of women, besides empowering them and addressing concerns such as maternal mortality.

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