India remains at a nearly constant 135 out of 187 nations in the UNDP’s annual Human Development Index rankings. Clearly, there is much to be done if India is to truly improve its people’s living standards, including a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent life, the three key parameters the HDI reflects.
While no Brics nation is in the high development category, India fares the worst of the five, although there is a silver lining to be seen in rising life expectancy. Of course, rising life expectancy brings with it a string of problems: providing proper healthcare for the elderly. In numbers, India has the second largest ageing population in the world. Providing old age and disability pensions are more easily said than done.
The report, based on recent estimates, says that to provide a comprehensive social security net of universal old age pension, basic child benefits, universal healthcare plus a 100-day employment guarantee, India will need to spend just four per cent of its GDP. That may not sound too much, but the delivery system spread over millions of people can prove truly challenging in infrastructure and logistics. A younger and more educated population will make even greater demands on public spending in the years ahead. But, most of all, the economy has to grow and with it the per capita income if India is to acquire a slightly higher HDI rank.