Poverty dips, but India lags behind on HDI: Economic Survey

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 27, 2015 20:48 IST

From 2004-05 to 2011-12, India's poverty ratio dipped from 37.2% to 21.9%, a 16 percentage point drop. But in terms of human development index - measured on the basis of health, education, and standard of living - and gender equality, India still has a long way to go, trailing behind other emerging economies and even some of its neighbours. This is the clear assessment of the Economic Survey of India, for 2014-2015, tabled in Parliament on Friday.

India is ranked 135 out of 187 countries in the 2014 Human Development Report, the lowest among the BRICS countries, and only slightly ahead of Bangladesh and Pakistan. While China improved its ranking by ten places to fare at 91 from 2008 to 2013, India's position only improved by a rank.

Between 1980 and 2013, India's life expectancy at birth (LEB) increased by 11 years, mean years of school by 2.5 years, and expected years of schooling by 5.3 years - while its Gross National Income per capital increased by about 306.2%. Bangladesh, with a lesser GNI per capita, has higher LEB and mean years of schooling.

On gender equality too, with a rank of 127 out of 153, India fares poorly. It has a gender inequality index (GII) of 0.563. The GII reflects the extent to which gender inequality erodes national achievements in reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation.

One stark instance of how women's reproductive rights are treated in comparison to men is the data on women's sterilisation - 'tubectomies account for a whopping 97.5% of all sterilisation operations in 2013-14', says the survey.

On health, government spending is only 1.2% of GDP, which is about 4% of the total government expenditure. The survey notes, "The failure to reach minimum levels of public health expenditure remains the single most important constraint to attaining desired health outcomes." It recognises the growth and potential of private sector, but affirms that international experience shows health outcomes and financial protection are 'closely related to absolute and relative levels of public health expenditure."

The survey says that besides aiming to be in the top 50 countries of Doing Business, India must also try to be in the top 50 countries in Human Development Index.

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