Human Development Index: An Inaccurate Measure of Human Development

By Trang Nguyen Vu

I travel a lot and most of the countries I usually visit are located in South Asia, where human development is slow and things are very noticeable. It is very obvious who has better standard of living, money and education. It is sad that unfairness and inequality is such a hard aspect to change in our world. I live in Vietnam and over the course of few years I noticed that that are many people who are struggling to live and buy food for survival. Inequality has become such a huge issue because it causes some to suffer and some to live too of a luxurious lifestyle. Unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities can only harm the country because only certain amount of the population is happy.

HDI is supposed to measure human development but does it really? Vietnam is known to be ranked very low but what about Hong Kong? Hong Kong is ranked as developed and is quiet high in the ranking list but when I visited Hong Kong a year ago I noticed the huge wealth gap. There are many that are so well off they can spend their money all day without worries while others have to work all day and all night to make some money to feed them. It is not only about wealth but education. Education is offered to the ones who can effort it, which means that people who are poor are often also not literate and educated enough to get good jobs, which shows the continuity of class struggle and suffering.

Human Development Index is an index that measures the average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development. The three basic dimensions are a life expectancy at birth-health, knowledge-education, and a decent standard of living-wealth. The HDI is expressed as a value between 0 and 11. The closer to 1 the score is, the higher level of human development a country has. I believe the HDI is inaccurate measurement because it doesn’t take into account inequality of opportunities; uneven distribution of income, access of health care, and most of the education level is only measured to literacy rate.


Some countries’ HDI measurement may not be very reliable and trustworthy because the data is hard to be confirmed and sometimes data can be even inaccurately measured due to bad technology or wrong equations. The measures chosen may seem very arbitrary since health and education can be measured and affected by different factors. For example, even if the health care is excellent in a certain country there might be a natural disaster or diseases like plague causing the country’s health to decline. Human development can also be slowed down due to natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis that cause the society to lose resources and money to rebuild.

The biggest flaw of the HDI is that it doesn’t take into account the unequal distribution of income, resources and other opportunities within the country. Another reason why HDI cannot be fully trusted as a measure of development is access. Education and health can be very good in a country but it doesn’t take into account that not everyone has access and the opportunity to take advantage of those things. For example, some poorer families have trouble putting their children through primary education and further levels of education but literacy rate still high only because wealthy students attending higher levels of education hide the fact of others not being able to pursue high, expensive levels of education.

Of course, HDI is not fully a bad measurement of human development since HDI does disclose global patterns and trends. HDI is also a good addition to GDP measurement because it doesn’t solely concentrate on economic development and prosperity. It acknowledges that development is not just economically but also social. When looking at the HDI we need to remember that data can be inaccurate and it will never include every aspect of the country.

I think, the HDI is bias towards development models that are Western and it seems that the HDI considers other development models from Asia or other continents to be inefficient and incorrect. The HDI also doesn’t include technological development, environment or ecological considerations. It only looks at the performance of the nation. I encourage people to not believe every measurement and always think about other aspects forgotten in the measurements before concluding anything about certain countries

.hdi-top10-600x435 Can we really trust this? People need to look beyond economic indicators because data can always go wrong.



5 responses to “Human Development Index: An Inaccurate Measure of Human Development

  1. I think you highlighted the shortcomings of the HDI index very well. I think the biggest discrepancy resides in the educational part of the HDI index.


  2. eckerline

    I didn’t realize how high up Australia & New Zeland were on the HDI. I also did not realize how big of a wealth gap there is in Hong Kong and that the HDI negates this.


  3. I agree that HDI could be misleading sometimes. It can be used generally, but it does not cover every aspect of the living condition in the country. What about the rich people living in a country with a low HDI? Or poorer people that live in a country with high HDI? Although it could, to a certain extent, help in making assumptions, it could not be 100% reliable and trustworthy.


  4. I really liked how you incorporated your personal experiences in your article! I don’t know that much about Southeast Asia so it was interesting for me to hear about your time in Vietnam and Hong Kong. I think that your point about the incorporation of environmental concerns is especially relevant given the impact that climate change has on development. The inclusion of environmental costs in the prices of everyday items would eliminate the externality that is absorbed by society. Also, most developed states today such as the United States and especially England industrialized at a time when the environment was not much of a concern. Today, however, developing states are under tighter environmental regulation that limits their development. I am not saying whether or not these regulations are good or bad, only that they make incomparable the development process of leading countries today and ones that are still modernizing.


  5. Dear Trang,

    When looking at economic data, or any data, it is important to remember that it is not perfect. The same is true for the Human Development Index and many other economic indicators. These are great tools that can help us to improve our understanding of the world economy. But to really understand, we must also look beyond them. Only then can we have a true picture of the world around us.

    ~Professor Myra Chaudhary


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: