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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 55  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 272-275  

Human development report 2010: Changes in parameters and perspectives

Scientist C, Division of Reproductive Health and Nutrition, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication30-Jan-2012

Correspondence Address:
Manju Rahi
Scientist C, Division of Reproductive Child Health and Nutrition, Indian Council of Medical Research, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.92404

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Human Development Report (HDR) 2010 in its 20 th year contains several significant changes. Indicators to measure the three dimensions of Human Development Index (HDI) have been changed: Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Index have been replaced by Gender Inequality Index (GII) and Human Poverty Index has been replaced by Multi-dimensional Poverty Index. Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI) has been introduced for the first time. Between 1980 and 2010, India's HDI rose by 1.6% annually from 0.320 to 0.519. While India's HDI value has improved over time, the rank has not improved as much as compared to other developing countries. On GII, India ranked at 122 with a GII value of 0.748 (ranges between 0 and 1) in 2010 HDR (based on data of 2008), revealing considerable loss in achievements in three dimensions of human development - reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market - due to inequality between genders. Multi-dimensional Poverty Index was 0.296 (2000-2008) and IHDI was 0.365 (2000-2007).

Keywords: Gender, Human Development Index, Human development, inequality-adjusted HDI, National HDI, poverty

How to cite this article:
Rahi M. Human development report 2010: Changes in parameters and perspectives. Indian J Public Health 2011;55:272-5

How to cite this URL:
Rahi M. Human development report 2010: Changes in parameters and perspectives. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Dec 4];55:272-5. Available from:

   Introduction Top

A thorough search and study of the Human Development Reports (HDRs), past and present, which are available freely on United Nations Development Program Website, was made and the major changes made in HDRs were noted. In addition, major national HDRs brought out by Planning Commission (2001) and Ministry of Women and Child Development (2009) and other authors' publications have been studied and the salient findings are reported here.

The concept of human development is much broader than any index can measure. The HDR ushered a new way of measuring development. The breakthrough for the Human Development Index (HDI) was the creation of a single statistic which was to serve as frame of reference for both social and economic development. It was first developed by the late Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq with the collaboration of the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and other leading development thinkers for the first HDR in 1990. It was introduced as an alternative to the conventional measures of national development, such as level of income and the rate of economic growth.

The HDI is a summary composite index that measures a country's average achievements in three basic aspects of human development - health, knowledge, and income. The HDI set a minimum and a maximum for each dimension called "goalposts" and reveals the position where each country stands in relation to these goalposts, expressed as a value between 0 and 1. Besides its application as an analytical tool at the international level, HDI facilitates instructive comparisons of the experiences within the country to highlight the known disparities and inequalities.

Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Index (GEM), introduced in 1995, captured inequalities in achievements between women and men. It was HDI adjusted downward for gender inequality. Human Poverty Index (HPI) was introduced in 1997 which concentrated on the deprivation in the three essential elements already reflected in HDI - survival, knowledge (percentage of illiteracy), decent standard of living (reflected by population without access to safe water and percentage of underweight children for their age). [1]

   From 1990 to 2010: A Journey of 20 Years in Reporting Human Development Top

In the year 2010, HDR completed its 20 years and the 20 th anniversary edition of HDR contains quite a few changes, not only in computation of the existing indicators but also in replacing the previous ones and introducing new ones, and thus urges change in the prism through which development of a population is viewed. There are some basic conceptual shifts in assessing gender inequality and poverty which are cited below, besides changes in calculations of various indices.

   Changes in the 20 th Edition of HDR 2010 Top

  1. HDI 2010 provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development based on four indicators - health (life expectancy at birth), knowledge (mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling) and living standards [Gross National Income (GNI) per capita].

    Under the previous HDI formula, health was measured by life expectancy at birth, education or "knowledge" by a combination of the adult literacy rate and school enrolment rates (for primary through university years), and income or standard of living by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita adjusted for purchasing-power parity (PPP US$). Health is still measured by life expectancy at birth. But the 2010 HDI measures achievement in knowledge by combining the expected years of schooling for a school-age child in a country today with the mean years of prior schooling for adults aged 25 and older. The income measurement, meanwhile, has changed from purchasing-power-adjusted per capita GDP to purchasing-power-adjusted per capita Gross National Income (GNI); GNI includes remittances and foreign assistance income, for example, providing a more accurate economic picture of many developing countries.

    GDP in the previous HDI was capped at $40,000 and was logarithmically transformed. The original HDI placed this cap on income to reflect the view that beyond some upper set amount, additional income does not expand human development opportunities. Over the years, it has been observed that the discriminatory power of capped income has been weakened, especially for discrimination between the very high developed countries. The caps in each dimension are lifted, so one can say that they are equal to the observed maxima over the period (1980-2010) for which HDI trends are presented.

    This year, the dimension indicators are transformed using the maximum levels for all sub-components observed over the period for which HDI trends are presented (from 1980). The minimum levels for the dimension indicators are set as follows: life expectancy at 20 years; both education variables at 0; and GNI per capita at PPP $163, which is the observed minimum. The choice of minimum values is motivated by the principle of natural zeros below which there is no possibility for human development.
  2. GDI and GEM, introduced in HDR in 1995, capture inequalities in achievements between women and men. However, they have been replaced by the Gender Inequality Index (GII) in the 2010 report which is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievements between women and men in three dimensions and five indicators: reproductive health (maternal mortality and adolescent fertility), empowerment (parliamentary representation and educational attainment) and the labor market (labor force participation). It varies between 0 (when women and men fare equally) and 1 (when men or women fare poorly compared to the other in all dimensions). The GII is designed to reveal the extent to which national human development achievements are eroded by gender inequality, and to provide empirical foundations for policy analysis and advocacy efforts.
  3. If human development is about enlarging choices, poverty means that opportunities and choices most basic are denied. HPI pioneering in its day used country averages to reflect aggregate deprivations in health, education, and standard of living. It could not identify specific individuals, households or larger groups of people as jointly deprived. Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) replaces HPI which complements money-based measures by considering multiple deprivations and their overlap. It measures deprivation in the same three dimensions but with a different set of indicators - health (nutrition and mortality), education (years of schooling and children enrolled) and living standards (assets, floor, electricity, water, toilet and cooking fuel). The MPI can be broken down by indicator to show how the composition of multidimensional poverty changes for different regions, ethnic groups and so on, with useful implications for policy.
  4. The 2010 report introduces the Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), a measure of the level of human development of people in a society that accounts for inequality. Under perfect equality, the HDI and the IHDI are equal. When there is inequality in the distribution of health, education and income, the HDI of an average person in a society is less than the aggregate HDI; the lower the IHDI (and the greater the difference between it and the HDI), the greater the inequality.

   Limitations/Drawbacks of Human Development Indices Top

Though the HDI has broadened the discussion surrounding the evaluation of development and is an important alternative to the traditional uni-dimensional measure of development (GDP), it has come under severe criticism on several occasions. Various drawbacks have been cited, for example, it fails to include ecological considerations among others. It seems to have become stagnant, repeating the same rhetoric without necessarily increasing the HDI's utility. The HDRs have lost touch with their original vision and the index fails to capture the essence of the world it seeks to portray. In addition, the index focuses almost exclusively on national performance and ranking and does not pay much attention to development from a global perspective [3]

While the methodology is consistent for all countries in each year, there are notable differences between years that make temporal comparisons of progress difficult. Change in ranks can easily be accounted for due to methodological or data artifact rather than genuine progress in human development. While HDRs often carry warnings about the inadvisability of such year-on-year comparisons, it is argued that the existence of such a high-profile index and overt presentation within league tables do encourage such comparisons. It would be more meaningful if robust categories of human development (low, medium, high) rather than league tables are considered . Others have found it very complicated to summarize and analyze. [4]

To overcome these limitations, modifications to HDI have been devised to suit individual situations more appropriately viz. Literate Life Expectancy (LLE) indicator was developed by Lutz in 1995 as an indicator of social development and quality of life. [5] Many Indian authors have also attempted a few variations and/or additions to the existing human development indices. Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNDP (2009), [6] Antony (2007), [7] and Indrayan (1999) [8] computed these for individual states and correlated with various demographic, socioeconomic, health and nutritional indicators. Corrie in 1995 developed the HDI for a Dalit child in India so that it could serve as an indicator of the "social progress" achieved in India as the country attempts to fulfill its constitutional vision of equality for all citizens. [9]

There were some inherent limitations in GDI and GEM as well. The GDI was not a measure of gender inequality; it was the HDI adjusted for gender disparities in its basic components and could not be interpreted independently of the HDI. The GII was introduced as a replacement of these two indices and brings in methodological improvements and alternative indicators. However, like the GDI, one cannot determine which of the sexes is better off by looking at the value. It will be revised and improved in light of feedback and data availability.

MPI has replaced HPI as HPI could not identify specific individuals, households or larger groups of people as jointly deprived. However, the MPI has some drawbacks mainly due to data constraints because flow data are not available for all dimensions, the health data are relatively weak and overlook some groups' deprivations. Also, the surveys, whose findings are used for calculating MPI, are taken in different years, and some countries do not have recent data. Therefore, the difference in dates limits direct cross-country comparisons, as circumstances may have improved or deteriorated in the intervening years.

The IHDI was introduced in HDR 2010 to overcome the limitation of HDI of being an average which conceals disparities in human development across the population within the same country. Two countries with different distributions of achievements can have the same average HDI value. The IHDI takes into account not only the average achievements of a country on health, education and income, but also how those achievements are distributed among its citizens by "discounting" each dimension's average value according to its level of inequality. The IHDI will be equal to the HDI when there is no inequality in the distribution of achievement across people in society, but falls below the HDI as inequality rises.

However, it is not association sensitive, i.e., it does not account for overlapping inequalities - whether the same people experience multiple deprivations. Also, the individual values of indicators such as income can be zero or even negative they have been adjusted to non-negative non-zero values uniformly across countries. [1]

   Where does India Stand? Top

State of human development in India

Between 1980 and 2010, India's HDI rose by 1.6% annually from 0.320 to 0.519, which gives the country a rank of 119 out of 169 countries with comparable data. [2] While India's HDI value has improved over time, the rank has not improved much compared to other developing countries. At the national level, during the eighties, the index has improved by nearly 26% and by another 24% during the nineties. There has been an improvement both in rural as well as in urban areas. Though the rural-urban gap in the level of human development continues to be significant, it has declined during the period. Inequalities across various states on the HDI are less than the income inequality as reflected in the per capita State Domestic Product. Human attainments appear to be better and more sustained in those parts of the country where there is social mobilization for human development, and where female literacy and empowerment encourages women to have a say in the decision making process at the household level. [10]

State of gender equality in India

India ranked at 122 with a GII value of 0.748 (ranges between 0 and 1) in 2010 HDR (based on data of 2008), revealing considerable loss in achievements in three dimensions of human development - reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market - due to inequality between genders. Regions that have done well in improving their female literacy levels are also the ones that have substantially improved their gender equality.

State of human poverty in India

MPI was 0.296 (2000-2008) and IHDI was 0.365 (2000-2007) for India as reported in HDR 2010. [2] The decline was from 47% in the early eighties to about 39% in the early nineties. The decline has been marginally more in rural areas in comparison to urban areas, resulting in a narrowing down of the rural-urban gap. [8]

Though India has taken great strides in the sphere of economic development, there is long way to go for the equitable development and growth of its populace as evidenced by the various human development indices.

Human development insists on deliberation and debate and on leaving the ends of development open to discussion. The HDI has enabled innovative thinking about progress by capturing the simple, yet powerful, idea that development is about much more than income. Advances in methods and better data availability have prompted introduction of three new measures and refinement of the HDI with the existing dimensions in the 20 th HDR. The core composite indices have a universal relevance and are useful from the point of tracking developmental changes. They are useful tools in policy formulation and mapping progress as human development over time.

   References Top

1.Available from: [Last accessed on 2011 Jan 14].  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Human Development Report, 2010. Available from: [Last accessed on 2011 Jan 14].   Back to cited text no. 2
3.Sagar DA, Najain A. The Human Development Index: A critical review. Ecol Econ 1998;25:249-64.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Morse S. For better or worse, till the Human Development Index do us part. Ecol Econ 2003;45:281-91.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Chattopadhya A, Sinha KC. Spatial and gender scenario of Literate Life Expectancy at birth in India. Asia Pac J Public Health 2010;20:1-15.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Ministry of Women and Child Development. Gendering Human Development Indices: A Report by Ministry of Women and Child Development, 2009.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Antony GM, Rao KV. A composite index to explain variations in poverty, health, nutritional status and standard of living: Use of multivariate statistical methods. Public Health 2007;121:578-87.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Indrayan A, Wysochi MJ, Chawla A, Kumar R, Singh N. 3-Decade trend in Human Development Index in India and its major states. Soc Indic Res 1999;46:91-120.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Corrie BP. A Human Development Index for a Dalit Child in India. Soc Indic Res 1995;34:395-409.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Planning Commission, Government of India. National Human Development Report, 2001.  Back to cited text no. 10

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