India ranked 132nd among 191 countries in the 2021 Human Development Index – one spot below its position in 2020 – a United Nations Development Programme report published on Thursday showed.

The report took into account factors such as their citizens’ ability to lead a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

India’s Human Development Index, or HDI, dropped to 0.633 in 2021 from 0.642 in 2020. Since 1990, India’s Human Development Index had improved every year, before it went stagnant in 2019. In 2020, the index fell by 0.003 point, while it registered a sharper decline of 0.009 point in 2021.

Despite the change, India continued to remain in the category of countries with “medium human development”. The category has 43 nations, mostly from Asia, Africa and South America.

Among India’s neighbours, Sri Lanka (73rd), China (79th), Bangladesh (129th) and Bhutan (127th) are ranked above India, while Pakistan (161st), Nepal (143rd) and Myanmar (149th) are worse off.

Switzerland remained at the top spot, followed by Norway and Iceland. South Sudan, Chad and Niger were three countries at the bottom of the list.

The 0.009 point drop in India’s Human Development Index in 2021 was due to a decline in life expectancy at birth from 70.1 years in 2020 to 67.2 last year.

“Between 1990 and 2021, India’s life expectancy at birth changed by 8.6 years, mean years of schooling changed by 3.9 years and expected years of schooling changed by 3.9 years,” the report noted. “India’s GNI [Gross National Income] per capita changed by about 268.1 percent between 1990 and 2021.”

Read the full report here.

India’s gross national income per capita rose to $6,590 (Rs 5,25, 181) in 2021 from $6,107 (Rs 4,86,689) in 2020 on purchasing power parity, or PPP, basis.

The PPP is a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries’ currencies.

The report noted that men from ethnic minorities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were the worst affected in terms of mental distress.

In terms of access to education and discrimination based on income, the report said that students with high economic status in Delhi were understanding of the government policy to reserve 20% seats in elite schools for children belonging to low income households.

“Hence, regular personal interactions enabled by the inclusion and diversity policy in education destigmatised economically marginalized individuals,” the report stated.

In terms of gender development, India’s index climbed to 0.849 in 2021 from 0.845 a year before that. The rise is attributed to a slight drop in gender gap from 0.105 to 0.101.

The report said that several movements have advanced the rights of women in India as they now get better legal rights, greater representation in politics, better support for paid and unpaid domestic care works, better protection from sexual harassment, among other things.

However, India’s Gender Development Index is still below the global mark of 0.958.

Gender Development Index. (Credit: United Nations Development Programme)

Covid-19 set human development back by 5 years

Globally, the report said, that the coronavirus pandemic has set back human development by five years.

The UN Development Programme said that the global human development index has declined for the first time for two straight years in 2020 and 2021 since the organisation began publishing the report in 1990.

This decline has negated the gains made in five years, the report said, adding that 90% of the countries around the world have been impacted in an adverse manner.

Gender Development Index. (Credit: United Nations Development Programme)

“It means we die earlier, we are less well educated, our incomes are going down,” UN Development Programme chief Achim Steiner told AFP in an interview. “Just under three parameters, you can get a sense of why so many people are beginning to feel desperate, frustrated, worried about the future.”

While some countries had begun to recover from the pandemic, many others in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean could not recoup.