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Human Development Index (HDI)


The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistical tool used to measure a country’s overall achievement in its social and economic dimensions. The social and economic dimensions of a country are based on the health of people, their level of education attainment and their standard of living. Developed by the United Nations, HDI provides a single index to compare the development levels of different countries.


The phonetics for “Human Development Index (HDI)” would be: /hjuːmən dɪˈvɛləpmɛnt ˈɪndɛks (eich diː aɪ)/

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistical measure that gauges a country’s level of human development. Its purpose is to capture the overall economic, educational, and health achievements of a nation’s people.
  2. Components: The HDI consists of three main components: standard of living measured by gross national income per capita, educational level measured by mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling, and lifespan or longevity measured by life expectancy at birth.
  3. Significance: HDI is a vital instrument used by organizations like the United Nations Development Programme to compare and rank countries, draw attention to global inequalities, and help policy-making aimed at promoting human development. It goes beyond GDP country comparisons, offering a more comprehensive perspective on a nation’s development status.


The Human Development Index (HDI) is a crucial business/finance term as it provides a multi-dimensional measure of a country’s human capital, thereby indicating its economic potential. It extends beyond conventional financial indexes such as GDP which mostly focus on monetary growth. HDI includes parameters like education, standard of living, and lifespan, offering a more comprehensive view of a country’s socioeconomic health. Hence, it’s a significant tool for policymakers, investors, and international organizations to map economic strategies, assess investment risk, and gauge development initiatives. In a nutshell, HDI’s importance lies in its ability to give a more holistic understanding of a country’s developmental status and future growth potential.


The primary purpose of the Human Development Index (HDI) is to provide a comprehensive measure of the overall well-being and standard of living in a country. This is accomplished by analyzing and comparing critical aspects that directly influence the quality of life for the population. The HDI does not rely exclusively on the economic prosperity or GDP of a country but significantly broadens the perspective to involve more human-centric factors. Specifically, the HDI is frequently used for the classification of countries’ development status, comparison of life standards among nations, and also for tracing the progression of nations in terms of human development over time. By encompassing dimensions such as life expectancy (reflecting health), education (measured via average years of schooling for adults and expected years of schooling for children), and standard of living (gauged by Gross National Income), the HDI offers a more balanced and real-world representation of development and the quality of life. Hence, policymakers, economists, and scientists use HDI not only as a means to analyze a country’s development but also to identify gaps and generate solutions for improvement.


1. Norway: As of 2020, Norway holds the highest rank in the Human Development Index with a score of 0.957. This high score indicates the country’s exceptional performance in fostering human development of its population. Norway’s high score is attributed to its strong commitment to education, healthcare, and economic growth, leading to high life expectancy, high average years of schooling, as well as high Gross National Income per capita. 2. Niger: On the contrary, Niger currently holds the lowest rank with a score of 0.394 highlighting low human development. Despite the country’s observed growth in recent years, its low HDI score indicates that its economic growth has not sufficiently translated into enhanced human development. People in Niger still suffer from low life expectancy and inadequate access to education and healthcare services.3. United Arab Emirates (UAE): The UAE has shown a major leap in terms of its Human Development Index over the last 40 years, climbing to 35th in the global ranking in 2018 with a score of 0.866. The government’s long-term strategy focusing on developing non-oil sectors, promoting education, and high investment in healthcare, has resulted in rapid human development. The UAE’s case emphasizes the role of effective economic strategies and governance in human development.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Human Development Index (HDI)?

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistical tool used to measure a country’s overall achievement in its social and economic dimensions. The social and economic dimensions are measured by life expectancy, education, and per capita income levels respectively.

Who developed HDI and why?

The HDI was developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the objective to measure the overall development of countries beyond GDP and give a greater emphasis to welfare and human-centric measures.

How is the Human Development Index (HDI) calculated?

The HDI is calculated using the geometric mean of normalized indices for each of the three dimensions – lifespan, education, and income. Each dimension has its own indicator or set of indicators that are used to calculate its index.

Why is the Human Development Index (HDI) important?

The HDI is important because it provides a broader perspective of a country’s progress and development compared to traditional economic metrics such as GDP. It highlights areas in which improvement is needed, and fosters a more comprehensive approach to policy-making.

What does a high HDI score signify?

A high HDI score signifies that a country is generally doing well in terms of providing its citizens with long and healthy lives, education, and a decent standard of living. Countries with an HDI score of 0.8 or higher are generally considered to be highly developed.

How often is the Human Development Index (HDI) updated?

The HDI is updated annually, usually in December, when the United Nations Development Programme publishes its Human Development Report.

How does HDI differ from GDP?

While GDP is a measure of economic output and typically reflects the health of a nation’s economy, HDI goes beyond purely economic measures to include social factors like education and health. Therefore, it’s possible for a country to have a high GDP, but a low HDI if social welfare is lacking.

How can a country improve its HDI?

A country can improve its HDI by taking measures to improve education levels, increase life expectancy through better healthcare provisions, and ensure better income equality among its population.

How many countries are ranked in the HDI report?

The latest Human Development Index report includes 189 countries and territories.

: Can the HDI score be used to predict future economic growth?

While the HDI score provides valuable information about a nation’s current state of development, it is not designed to predict future economic growth. However, improvements in HDI components such as education and health could potentially foster economic growth in the long term.

Related Finance Terms

  • Gross National Income (GNI) per capita
  • Life Expectancy at Birth
  • Mean years of schooling
  • Expected years of schooling
  • Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI)

Sources for More Information

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