Human Development Report 2019 – Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century


The United Nations Development Programme released its flagship Human Development Report, titled Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century on December 9, 2019, in Bogota, Colombia.

It was written by the Human Development Report 2019 Team, with Pedro Conceição as its director and lead author (former director, Strategic Policy, at the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP). Its Advisory Board was co-chaired by Tharman Shanmugaratnam (senior minister for Social Policies, Singapore and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore) and Thomas Piketty (French economist, professor and co-director of the World Inequality Lab). 

The report contains statistical tables from the Human Development Index (a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development — a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living), along with the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Development Index, the Gender Inequality Index, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), among others.

These indices were formulated by the Human Development Report Office – except for the MPI, which is produced in partnership with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. World Inequality Lab, a research organisation affiliated with the Paris School of Economics, contributed chapter 3 ‘Measuring inequality in income and wealth’ to the report.

The report observes that while many are stepping above minimum floors of achievement in human development, widespread disparities remain. It articulates the rise of a ‘new generation’ of inequalities, such as those related to climate change and technological transformations. Assessing these, the report says, will require clearer concepts and sharper analytical tools – a ‘revolution in metrics’.


  1. India ranked 129 – with an HDI value of 0.642 – in the 2019 Human Development Index, of a total of 189 countries. This is one rank above the country’s 2018 HDI ranking.

  2. The Gender Development Index (GDI) compares the ratio of female to male HDI values to measure disparities on the HDI by gender. In India, in 2018, the HDI value was 0.574 for females and 0.692 for males. Countries with the lowest HDI values included the Central African Republic (males: 0.421; females: 0.335) and Chad (males: 0.449; females: 0.347). Countries with the highest HDI values included  Norway (males: 0.955; females: 0.946) and Switzerland (males: 0.959; females: 0.924).

  3. The GDI shows that in India the ‘mean years of schooling’ was 4.7 years for females and 8.2 for males (2018). The term refers to the average number of years of education received by people ages 25 and older, converted from educational attainment levels using official durations of each level.

  4. ‘Life expectancy at birth’ is defined as the number of years a newborn could expect to live if prevailing patterns of age-specific mortality rates at the time of birth stay the same throughout the infant’s life. In India, the GDI shows, life expectancy at birth was 68.2 years for males and 70.7 for females in 2018. The lowest rates of life expectancy were in Chad (males: 52.6; females: 55.4) and the Central African Republic (males: 50.6; females: 55). The highest life expectancy rates were in Japan (males: 81.3; females: 87.5), Hong Kong, China (males: 81.8; females: 87.6) and Switzerland (males: 81.7; females: 85.5).

  5. The Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index or IHDI, adjusts HDI values according to ‘inequalities in the three basic dimensions of human development’. The IHDI value for India is 0.477 (in 2018). The lowest IHDI values were in South Sudan (0.264), Chad (0.250) and Central African Republic (0.222). The highest were  in Norway – (0.889), Iceland (0.885), Switzerland and Japan (both 0.882).

  6. ‘Income share’, as calculated in the IHDI, refers to the percentage of income or consumption that accrues to the ‘indicated population’. The richest 1 per cent in India holds 21.3 per cent of the income share, and the richest 10 per cent holds 30.1 per cent. The poorest 40 per cent in India has an income share of 19.8 per cent. This data is calculated for the years 2010-17, using figures available from the most recent year for each country.

  7. The Gender Inequality Index (GII) is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievement between females and males on three parameters – reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market. India’s GII value for the year 2018 is 0.501, and it ranks 122 among 189 countries. 

  8. The GII shows that women occupy 11.7 per cent of the total seats in both houses of India’s parliament as of 2018.

  9. The labour force participation rate in India in 2018 was 23.6 and 78.6 per cent for females and males respectively. This rate, as calculated in the GII, refers to the working-age population (ages 15 and older) that engages in the labour market, either by working or actively looking for work, expressed as a percentage of the working-age population.

  10. In 2018, the rate of ‘vulnerable employment’ in India is 76.7 per cent. Vulnerable employment refers to the percentage of employed people engaged as unpaid family workers and ‘own-account workers’. India is in the bottom third of all 189 countries in the list for this indicator.

  11. India emitted 1.6 tonnes per capita of carbon dioxide emissions in 2016 – the bottom third of all 189 countries for this indicator. 

  12. The ratio of education and health to military expenditure in India is 3.1 (between the years 2010 and 2016, using data available for the most recent year). It is in the middle third of the 189 countries in the list for this indicator.

    Focus and Factoids by Oorna Raut and Rounak Bhat.


Human Development Report 2019 Team; director and lead author: Pedro Conceição


United Nations Development Programme


09 Dec, 2019