The 2016 Human Development Report (HDR) was released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Tuesday, 21 March. The Report is titled “Human Development for Everyone”.
India slipped down one place from 130 to 131 among the 188 countries ranked in terms of human development. India has a human development index (HDI) value of 0.624. This puts the country in the “medium human development” category in the HDR, alongside countries such as Congo, Namibia, and Pakistan. India ranks third among the SAARC countries, behind Sri Lanka (73) and the Maldives (105), both of which figure in the “high human development” category.
The entire 2016 Human Development Report can be read here.
What is the Human Development Report?
The HDR 2016 is the product of the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UN General Assembly has officially recognised the Report as “an independent intellectual exercise” that has become “an important tool for raising awareness about human development around the world.”
According to the HDR itself, human development is “all about human freedoms: freedom to realise the full potential of every human life, not just of a few, nor of most, but of all lives in every corner of the world—now and in the future.”
Human development index is a tool for assessing progress in three basic dimensions of human development:
a long and healthy life,
access to knowledge,
and access to a decent standard of living.
What does the Report say about India?
- Back in 2005, India had aimed to construct an all-weather road for every community with more than 1,000 people (and every community with more than 500 people in hilly, tribal and desert areas). Four years later, 70 percent of the target communities were connected.
- The Indian inheritance law reform improved the economic freedom of women, who were thereby able to double their spending on daughters’ education thanks to increased savings.
- The Indian Penal Code was amended in 2013 to recognise acid violence as a criminal act.
- On a single day—11 July 2016—India planted 50 million trees to take on climate change.
- Healthcare in India exemplifies the extreme geographic differences in health services. In the mid-2000s, 39 percent of children overall and 59 percent of children in urban areas benefited from full immunisation coverage, theoretically provided by the public sector. Kerala had one public hospital bed per 1,299 people, but Uttar Pradesh had only one bed per 20,041 people. Almost all births in Kerala were attended by health personnel, compared with just 27 percent in Uttar Pradesh.
- Combining social protection with appropriate employment strategies.Creating jobs through a public works programme targeted at poor people can reduce poverty through income generation, build physical infrastructure and protect poor people against shocks. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme in India and the Rural Employment Opportunities for Public Assets Programme in Bangladesh are prime examples.
- India’s affirmative action programme— launched in 1950, making it the world’s oldest —was originally intended to benefit Scheduled Castes, which include Dalits, or untouchables, who had been oppressed for centuries under the caste system and accounted for about 16 percent of the population, and Scheduled Tribes, the historically neglected tribal groups that accounted for about 8 percent of the population. The programme was expanded in the early 1990s to include the Other Backward Classes, lower castes of socially and educationally disadvantaged people encompassing about 25 percent of the population. The programme has not remedied caste-based exclusions, but it has had substantial positive effects. In 1965, for example, Dalits held fewer than 2 percent of senior civil service positions, but the share had grown to 11 percent by 2001.
- Since 2005, India has introduced progressive acts on the right to socioeconomic entitlements, including information, work, education, forest conservation, food and public service. These acts have been marked by their explicit use of rights-based claims and by the design of innovative governance mechanisms that seek to enhance the transparency, responsiveness and accountability of the state.
- India’s National Food Security Act of 2013 grants the “right to food” in the biggest-ever food safety net programme, distributing highly subsidised food grain (61 million tonnes) to 67 percent of the population.
- In India, increasing clean energy investments by 1.5 percent of GDP a year for 20 years will generate a net increase of about 10 million jobs annually, after factoring in job losses from retrenchments in the fossil fuel industries.
How has the rest of the world fared?
The three biggest themes of this year’s Report are:
- Averages disguise inequalities. The Human Development Index (HDI) has registered substantial progress on average in every region since 1990 – across educational attainment, health status, and income levels.
- Ensuring human development for everyone requires better data and analysis to inform policy and action.
- Global institutional reforms which produce a fairer multilateral system are important for development to reach everyone.
The world’s top three countries in HDI are Norway (HDI of 0.949), Australia (0.939), and Switzerland (0.939).
The report finds that although average human development improved significantly across all regions from 1990 to 2015, one in three people worldwide continues to live in low levels of human development as measured by the HDI.
Despite outpacing global human development growth rates over 15 years, sub-Saharan Africa remains burdened by the world’s most uneven distribution of development gains, with women, girls, people living in rural areas, migrants, refugees and those in conflict-affected areas systemically left behind.
Furthermore, gender inequality remains a serious challenge to human development around the world.
“The world has come a long way in rolling back extreme poverty, in improving access to education, health and sanitation, and in expanding possibilities for women and girls,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, speaking at the launch of the Report in Sweden. “But those gains are a prelude to the next, possibly tougher challenge, to ensure the benefits of global progress reach everyone.”