India slipped one rank to 132 of the total of 191 countries in the human development index (HDI) 2021, with an index value of 0.633, shows the latest report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This is the second consecutive fall in the global HDI rank in around 30 years.

In 2020, India was ranked 130, with an index value of 0.645, among 189 nations. The drop has been attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, geo-political crisis and climate change, which affected 90% of the countries in the index, taking them backwards in their ranking. “The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and elsewhere, record-breaking temperatures, fires and storms. Each is a troubling manifestation of an emerging, new uncertainty complex,” says the report.

For the first time in the 32 years that UNDP has been calculating it, the Human Development Index, which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, has declined globally for two years in a row. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress made toward sustainable development goals.

"The reversal is nearly universal as over 90% of countries registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021 and more than 40% declined in both years, signalling that the crisis is still deepening for many," says the report, “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World”.

India has been placed in the medium human development category, with nations like the Philippines (116), Botswana (117), Venezuela (120), Iraq (121), Morocco (123), Bhutan (127), and Bangladesh (129) ranking above it.

The UNDP's Human Development Index measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living based on four indicators i.e. life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. India's life expectancy at birth stands at 67.2 years in 2021, while its expected years of schooling is at 11.9 years. The mean years of schooling are 6.7 years and GNI per capita stands at $6,590.

Gender inequality, measured in Gender Inequality Index, also increased by 6.7% globally, but India showed a slight improvement. India's GNI value for 2021 stands at 0.490 as compared to 0.493 in 2020. The GNI is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievement between women and men in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market.

In 2021, the report emphasises that multiple crises have halted progress as nine out of 10 countries have fallen backwards in human development. "The world is lurching from crisis to crisis, trapped in a cycle of firefighting and unable to tackle the roots of the troubles that confront us. Without a sharp change of course, we may be heading towards even more deprivations and injustices," warns the UNDP.

"The last two years have had a devastating impact for billions of people around the world, when crises like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine hit back-to-back, and interacted with sweeping social and economic shifts, dangerous planetary changes, and massive increases in polarisation," it says.

To chart a new course, the report recommends implementing policies that focus on investment — from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics, and insurance — including social protection — to prepare societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world. Innovation in its many forms— technological, economic, cultural—can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next, it says.

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