According to the Human Development Index (HDI) 2021, India ranks 132 out of 191 countries, following a decline in its score. The decline is consistent with the global trend since the outbreak of COVID-19.


What is HDI?

It is a statistical composite (first published in 1990 by the UNDP) index, which measures average achievement of a country in 3 basic dimensions —

  • Health as measured by life expectancy at birth
  • Knowledge measured by expected and mean years of education, and
  • Standard of living measured by per capita gross national income (GNI).



  • It was developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and is now used to assess a country’s development as part of the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report.
    • Along with HDI, HDR also presents —
      • the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI),
      • the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI),
      • the Gender Inequality Index (GII) since 2010 and
      • the Gender Development Index (GDI) since 2014.
    • These were launched to track poverty, inequality and gender empowerment across different dimensions of human development.
  • The HDI also embodies Amartya Sen’s “capabilities” approach to understand human well-being, which emphasises the importance of ends (like a decent standard of living) over means (like income per capita).


Trends in 2021-2022

  • According to the recent report, global progress is reversing, as the ‘Human Development’ has fallen for two years in a row (2020 and 2021).
  • Globally, nine out of ten countries’ human development performance has slipped due to multiple crises such as COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and environmental challenges. This indicates that global human development has stalled for the first time in 32 years.
  • A significant contributor to the HDI’s recent decline is a global decline in life expectancy, which has fallen from 72.8 years in 2019 to 71.4 years in 2021.
  • The latest HDR highlights that stress, sadness, anger and worry have been increasing over the last decade and are now at record levels as the new normal takes shape.
  • According to the report, the world is still not transitioning to a post-Covid-19 build-back-better scenario.
  • On the contrary, developing countries across the globe are entering a period of sharp social, political and economic divergence, adversely affecting the most vulnerable and increasing gender inequality (which increased 6.7% globally).


Performance of India

  • India is ranked 132 out of 191 countries in the 2021 HDR’s HDI. In the 2020 HDI, India was ranked 130th out of 189 countries.
      • India’s HDI value in the “medium human development” category fell from 0.645 in 2020 to 0.633 in 2021, owing to a drop in life expectancy from 69.7 to 67.2 years.
      • The expected years of schooling in India are 11.9 years, while the mean years of schooling are 6.7 years. The per capita Gross National Income (GNI) is $6,590.
  • According to the GII, India ranks 122 out of 170 countries, with a value of 0.490.
      • This indicates that India’s GII value improved slightly in the latest report compared to the 2020 index (0.490 vs 0.493), despite gender inequality worsening between 2019 and 2020.
      • The GII measures inequality in achievement between women and men in three dimensions – reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market.



According to UNDP, comparing rankings across countries is inaccurate because the HDI was calculated for 189 countries in 2020 and 191 countries this year. Despite the decline in India’s HDI value, it continues to outperform the average human development in South Asia. Since 1990, India’s HDI value has been steadily catching up to the global average, indicating a faster rate of progress in human development than the global average.