India has risen five rungs to 130 among 188 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) on improved life spans and social protection, but the country continues to trail poorer nations such as Iraq, Bangladesh and even Pakistan, in women’s progress, children’s status and basic healthcare.
The latest HDI report — themed on how access to work in a digital-era labour market can improve lives — termed India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act a “milestone” that has ensured “greater social protection”.
Despite the progress, India’s 2014 HDI score was 0.609, which is below the average of the medium development nations (0.630), according to the report published by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme.
Although India, the world’s ninth richest country, looks to be scaling up the rankings rather quickly, the picture is not all rosy. When adjusted for inequality, the country’s actual improvement is just one rank since last year.
This means that development has been highly skewed, and causes an overall human development “loss” of 28.6%, underscoring the need for policies that will enable wider, more secure and sustainable employment, the report says.
The findings show gender inequality is a growing risk. For every 1,000 live births, 190 women die from pregnancy-related causes every year in India. The figure for Bangaldesh and Pakistan is lower at 170. For Sri Lanka, it is even lower at 29. Only 27% of adult women reach at least a secondary level of education in contrast to 56.6% of their male counterparts in India.
In India, the world’s largest democracy by size and population, 12.2% seats in Parliament are held by women, while 20% parliamentary seats are held by women in Pakistan. The maternal mortality ratio of women in war-torn Syria is better at 49 than India.
Iraq too, despite a lower rank, tops India on maternal deaths (67 per 1000 births against India’s 190), share of women-held parliamentary seats (26.5% against India’s 12.2%) and under-five mortality (35 per 1,000 live birth against India’s 52.7).
The HDI report calls upon countries to increase access to employment in a labour-market transformed by digital technology and globalisation. Indian farmers and fishermen who compare wholesale prices and track weather” on mobile phones increased profits 8%, the report states. Better internet access will enable more people to work from home, increasing living standards.
Given globalisation and technological changes, employment terms tend to be skewed against workers, 46% of them are vulnerable in India. The HDI report says newer forms of trade unionism and worker organisations, such as India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association of India, widely known as SEWA, strengthen social protection and need to be supported.
Educational attainments in India are stagnating since 2010, according to the HDI, with mean and expected years of schooling remaining stuck at 5.4 years and 11.7 years respectively since 2011.