Although it is not possible to have a flawless quantitative measure of human development, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has developed a composite index, now known as the Human Development Index (HDI).
It includes (i) longevity of life, (ii) knowledge base, and (iii) a decent material standard of living. To keep the index simple, only a limited number of variables are included. Initially, life expectancy was chosen as an index of longevity, adult literacy as an index of knowledge and per capita Gross National Product adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) as an index of decent life. These variables are expressed in different units. Therefore, a methodology was evolved to construct a composite index rather than several indices.
In India, three sets of indicators have been selected for preparing the Human Development Report. Among them, a core set of composite indices presents the state of human development for the society as a whole. Besides, Gender Equality Index has been estimated to reflect the relative attainments of women, and the Human Poverty Index to evaluate the state of deprivation in the society.
Several other variables have gradually been added to the above sets of indicators. Among them, health indicators related to longevity are birth rate, death rate with special reference to infant mortality, nutrition, and life expectancy at birth.
Social indicators include literacy particularly female literacy, enrolment of school-going children, drop out ratio, and pupil-teacher ratio. Economic indicators are related to wages, income, and employment. Per Capita Gross Domestic Product, incidences of poverty and employment opportunity is also favoured indicators in this group. They are converted into a composite index to present the holistic picture of the Human Development.
Computing the HDI:
To construct the Index, fixed minimum and maximum values have been established for each of the indicators:
- Life expectancy at birth: 25 years and 85 years;
- General literacy rate: 0 per cent and 100 per cent;
- Real GDP per capita (PPP$); PPP$ 100 and PPP$ 40,000.
Individual Indices are computed first on the basis of a given formula. HDI is a simple average of these three indices and is derived by dividing the sum of these three indices by 3.
With normalization of the values of the variables that make up the HDI, its value ranges from 0 to 1. The HDI value for a country or a region shows the distance that it has to travel to reach the maximum possible value of 1 and also allows inter-country comparisons.
HDI of India:
As compared to the pre-independence days India has done well in development in general. As per Human Development Reports (HDRs) published annually by the UNDP, India has consistently improved on human development front and is grouped among the countries with ‘medium human development’.
According to Human Development Report 2005, India ranked 127 (same rank as in the previous two years) out of 177 countries (Table 15.1). Even though India did not improve her rank, the report applauds its state policies for promoting political, social and religious aspects.
Among South Asian countries, India ranks third after Maldives (84) and Sri Lanka (93). Pakistan Nepal and Bangladesh are worse than India. Their ranks are 135,136 and 139 respectively (Table 15.1). Globally, Norway, Iceland and Australia are the top three performers when it comes to giving their citizens good quality of life. Burkima Faso and Sierra Leone Niger have worst human development indices.
In spite of all these developments, India still lags behind developed and evens the developing countries so far as human development is concerned. Not only developed countries but some of the developing countries such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia are much better than India with respect to HDI. India’s gender development index (GDI) is also lower than that of Sri Lanka, China and Indonesia.
Some of the principal indicators used for calculating Human Development Index (HDI) are briefly discussed below:
Health in a major component of human development. It is measured in terms of birth rate, death rate (with special reference to infant mortality rate), nutrition, and life expectancy at birth.
Crude death rate is defined as the number of deaths per thousand populations in a particular year. It declined rapidly from 25.1 per thousand in 1951 to 12.5 per thousand in 1981 and to 8.1 per thousand in 2002. Decline in infant mortality rate (number of deaths of children under one year of age per thousand live births) was less than half in 2002 of what it was in 1951. Child (0-4 years) mortality rate declined from 57.3 per thousand in 1972 to 19.3 in 2001. It means risk of death has declined at each stage of life. Certainly it is a definite improvement in health.
The Crude birth rate (defined as the number of births per thousand populations in a particular year) has also declined from 40.8 per thousand in 1951 to 33.9 per thousand in 1981 and 25 per thousand in 2002. But the decline in birth rate has been much slower than that of the death rate.
For example, death rate declined by 17 points between 1951 and 2002 while birth rate declined by 14.2 points only during the same period. It is worth mentioning that birth rate has always been higher than the death rate which results in rapid increase in population. Similarly, total fertility rate (number of children born to a woman during child-bearing age) also reduced from 6 children in 1951 to 3.1 children in 2001.
Life expectancy has gone up with the decline in vital rates such as birth, death and fertility rates. In the year 1951, it was only 37.2 years for males and 36.2 years for females. The corresponding figures increased to 63.9 and 66.9 years respectively in 2001 – 06. The increase in life expectancy has been more conspicuous in females than in males. It was lower than males in 1951 which became higher in 1981 and still continues to be higher.
Although considerable progress has been made in socio-demographic parameters over the last two decades, the country continues to lag behind several other countries in the region . The Tenth Five Year Plan targeted a reduction in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) to 45 per 1000 by 2007 and 28 per 1,000 by 2012; reduction in Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) to 2 per 1000 live births by 2007 and 1 per 1000 live birth by 2012 and reduction of decadal growth rate of population between 2001- 2011 to 16.2 per cent.
The National Population Policy, 2000 aims at achieving net replacement levels of total fertility rate by 2010 through vigorous implementation of inter-sectoral operational strategies. The long term objective is to achieve population stabilization by 2025.