Human Development Report 2020 – The next frontier: Human development and the Anthropocene


The United Nations Development Programme released its 30th annual Human Development Report, titled The next frontier: Human development and the Anthropocene, on December 15, 2020.

It was written by the Human Development Report 2020 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 A. Michael Spence (American economist, professor and Nobel laureate).

The report contains statistical tables from the Human Development Index (a composite index measuring performance in three basic dimensions of human development – longevity, education and income per capita), along with the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Development Index, the Gender Inequality Index, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index, among others.

The report emphasises the impact of human activity on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. It comprises of seven chapters: Charting human development in the Anthropocene (Chapter 1); Unprecedented – the scope, scale and speed of human pressures on the planet (Chapter 2); Empowering people for equity, innovation and stewardship of nature (Chapter 3); Empowering people, unleashing transformation (Chapter 4); Shaping incentives to navigate the future (Chapter 5); Building nature-based human development (Chapter 6); and Towards a new generation of human development metrics for the Anthropocene (Chapter 7).


  1. India ranked 131 of 189 countries in the 2020 Human Development Index, with an HDI value of 0.645. The country ranked 129th in the 2019 index.

  2. Norway (0.957), Ireland (0.955) and Switzerland (0.955) ranked the highest in the 2020 HDI. Chad (0.398), the Central African Republic (0.397) and Niger (0.394) ranked the lowest.

  3. 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 0.475 (in 2019). The lowest IHDI values were in South Sudan (0.276), Chad (0.248) and the Central African Republic (0.232). The highest were in Iceland (0.894), and Norway and Switzerland (both 0.889).

  4. ‘Income share’, as calculated in the IHDI, refers to the percentage of income or consumption that accrues to the ‘indicated population subgroups’. The richest 1 per cent in India holds 21.3 per cent of the income share, and the richest 10 per cent holds 31.7 per cent. The poorest 40 per cent in India has an income share of 18.8 per cent. This data is calculated for the years 2010-18, using figures available from the most recent year for each country. 

  5. 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 2019, the HDI value was 0.573 for females and 0.699 for males. Countries with the lowest HDI values included the Central African Republic (males: 0.438; females 0.351) and Niger (males: 0.443; females: 0.321). Countries with the highest HDI values were Norway (males: 0.959; females: 0.949) and Ireland (males: 0.961; females: 0.943). 

  6. The GDI shows that in India the ‘mean years of schooling’ was 5.4 years for females and 8.4 for males (2019). The term refers to the average number of years of education received by people of ages 25 and older, converted from educational attainment levels using official durations of each level.

  7. ‘Life expectancy at birth’ is defined as the number of years a new born 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 68.5 years for males and 71 for females in 2019. The lowest rates of life expectancy were in Sierra Leone (males: 53.9; females: 55.5) and the Central African Republic (males: 51.1; females: 55.5). The highest life expectancy rates were in Japan (males: 81.5; females: 87.7) and Hong Kong, China (males: 82; females: 87.7).

  8. 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 2019 was 0.488, and it ranked 123 among 189 countries – one position lower than its 2018 ranking.

  9. GII values were highest in Switzerland (0.025), Denmark (0.038) and Sweden (0.039). They were lowest in Yemen (0.795), Papua New Guinea (0.725) and Chad (0.71).

  10. The GII shows that women occupy 13.5 per cent of the total seats in both houses of India’s parliament as of 2019.

  11. In India, the labour force participation rate in 2019 was 20.5 per cent for females and 76.1 for males – a 55.6 percentage point difference. 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.

  12. Roughly 21.9 per cent of India’s population lived below the national poverty line in 2019.

  13. The rate of ‘vulnerable employment’ in India in 2019 was 74.3 per cent. Vulnerable employment refers to the percentage of employed people engaged as unpaid family workers and ‘own-account workers’.

  14. The lowest rates of vulnerable employment were found in Norway (4.9 per cent), Germany (5.6) and Hong Kong, China (5.7). The highest rates were in Burundi (94.6 per cent), Niger (93.7) and Chad (93).

  15. India produced two tonnes per capita of carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, as compared to 1.6 tonnes in 2016. This refers to the total car­bon dioxide emissions produced as a consequence of hu­man activities, divided by the mid-year population.

    Focus and Factoids by Sayani Rakshit.


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


United Nations Development Programme


15 Dec, 2020