Human Development Index 2021


  • India ranks 132 (130 in 2020) out of 191 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI) 2021, after registering a decline in its score over two consecutive years for the first time in three decades.

Key Findings of Human Development Index 2021

  • In 2021, India’s life expectancy at birth was recorded at 67.2 years; expected years of schooling at 11.9 years; mean years of schooling at 6.7 years; and gross national income per capita (2017 PPP) at $6,590. On all these four parameters, India was behind the world averages in 2021: life expectancy at 71.4 years, expected years of schooling at 12.8 years, mean years of schooling at 8.6 years and gross national income per capita (2017 PPP$) at $16,752.
  • According to the report, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), India’s HDI value stood at 0.633 during 2021, which was lower than the world average of 0.732.

    Human Development Index 2021
    Photo Credit: The Hindu
  • In 2020, too, India recorded a decline in its HDI value (0.642) in comparison to the pre-Covid level of 2019 (0.645).
  • The drop is in line with the global trend since the outbreak of COVID-19 during which 90% of the countries have fallen backward in human development.
  • The world over, nine out of 10 countries have slipped in their human development performance due to multiple crises such as COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and environmental challenges, indicating that human development globally has stalled for the first time in 32 years.
  • Ranking of countries over different years is not comparable.
  • A large contributor to the HDI’s recent decline is a global drop in life expectancy, down from 72.8 years in 2019 to 71.4 years in 2021.
  • Like global trends, in India’s case, the drop in HDI from 0.645 in 2018 to 0.633 in 2021 can be attributed to falling life expectancy at birth — 70.7 years to 67.2 years. India’s expected years of schooling stand at 11.9 years, and the mean years of schooling are at 6.7 years. The GNI per capita level is $6,590.
  • Gender inequality

    • The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated gender inequality, which increased 6.7% globally.
    • India has, however, shown a slight improvement in its Gender Inequality Index value in the latest report as compared to the 2020 index (0.490 vs 0.493), after gender inequality worsened between 2019 and 2020 (0.486 vs 0.493).
    • The index measures inequality in achievement between women and men in three dimensions reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market.
    • India has also been ranked 122 on the Gender Inequality Index.

Key Challenges

  • The report notes that the uncertainty due to multiple global crises has fuelled support for polarisation in many parts of the world which is detrimental for democratic freedom and human rights.
  • Conflicts arising from polarisation can then divert policy attention and resources.
  • It identifies worsening mental distress since COVID-19 as another factor that can impede human development and suggests that stress, sadness, anger, and worry had reached record levels.
  • On average, countries spend less than 2% of their healthcare budgets on mental health, which limits access to mental health services for citizens globally.

Back to Basics

About Human Development Index 2021

  • The Index is part of the Human Development Report 2021-2022 released by the United Nations Development Programme.
  • HDI is composite index that measures average achievement in human development taking into account four indicators: life expectancy at birth (Sustainable Development Goal 3); expected years of schooling (SDG 4.3); mean years of schooling (SDG 4.4); and gross national income (GNI) per capita (2017 PPP$) (SDG 8.5).
  • It is calculated using four indicators life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.


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