Towards a New HDI - historical review and future perspective

Towards a New HDI - historical review and future perspective presented at the Human Development Index 20th Anniversary Conference, at Cambridge, UK, on the 28-29 January 2010 by Tadashi Hirai of the University of Cambridge

This presentation, “Towards a New HDI – Historical Review and Future Perspective”, was presented by Tadashi Hirai, PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge to a workshop entitled “Twenty Years of Human Development: The past and the future of the Human Development Index.”  The workshop was held under the auspices of the Von Hugel Institute/Capability and Sustainability Network of the Univ. of Cambridge and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/Human Development Report Office (HDRO) at the University of Cambridge, on 28-29 January, 2010.


Over 20 years since its introduction, the Human Development Index (HDI) has proliferated tremendously in the development field and played an essential part as a counterpart of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a predominant indicator for measuring our quality of life.  At the same time, it has received a lot of critiques from various perspectives.  Whilst it can be seen as a positive tendency to the extent that it is influential enough to be criticised worldwide, the critiques should be taken more seriously for the improvement of the HDI.  Although the indicator can never perfectly reflect the reality, it should be revised for measuring relevant aspect of our quality of life.  The structure of this presentation is as follows: first, the critiques of HDI and the responses by the Human Development Reports will be reviewed chronologically; second, all the critiques in the previous section were summarized and categorized to either being solved or unsolved by the reports; finally, some lessons will be addressed, followed by concluding remarks about the future perspective of the HDI.

See the whole presentation...


2 additional laments about the HDI

Your presentation gives an interesting summary, up to the point of the rather controversial 2010 HDR and its "tinkering without maintaining stability during the tinkering process." Here is an additional concern (geographic incompleteness of the HDI), and a prototype solution to one concern (the release of a geographically extensive Human Security Index). <= see link to .pdf of full paper on this summary page.

The global HDI, now reduced to 169 countries, is not global. In the link above, an HDI covering ~230 countries is demonstrated. <= see link to .pdf of full paper on this summary page.

It's time to get on with the creation of a Human Security Index. In the link above, an HSI covering ~200 national level societies is released. In the link below global HSI Version 2, covering ~230 national level societies, is under release and discussion. "Community" level HSIs are under development for one "developed" and one developing country, as tests/implementations of concept.

David Hastings

Thank you Mr Hastings

These references are really interesting.

In fact, we used the very same references when we prepared our presentation "eResearch: Strategies to model and monitor human progress" (Mizohata, S and Jadoul, R) presented at Cambridge for the HDI 20th Anniversary.

These references also helped us animate the debate.

More specifically, these slides will give you an overview of our proposal:

The slide-show is located at: Strategies to model and monitor human progress

We will send a note to Tadashi-san so he can react to your comment.

Best regards


Thank you Mr Hastings

Thank you very much for your comments. Likewise I enjoyed your papers which are very informative especially because both aspects have been rather neglected. I am impressed with your finding about the pattern of income, literacy and life expectancy, because I have read some research focusing only on the relation between income and the other two indicators. I also learned a lot about the available indices regarding security which I did not recognise.

With regard to the geographical coverage I do not disagree with the intention of the HDRs to exclude countries without data or with only estimation/interpolation with more than one component since 2001 in order to urge them to collect accurate data rather than to rely on estimation/interpolation. It was effective, given that most of the eliminated countries at that time had accurate data and had thus been included in the list by the HDR 2009. However, due to the replacement to the new indicators (i.e. ‘mean years of schooling’, ‘expected years of schooling’ and ‘gross national income (GNI)’), most of them have again been removed from the list. This makes the number of countries in the list unstable, which obviously affects the inter-temporal ranking comparison. Unless the indicators are to be specified over time, the priority of the data quality over the coverage seems unproductive and thus data could be employed from any sources available regardless of estimation/interpolation.

As to security I totally agree with the importance you attach to it. In my research (part of my doctoral work), security was the third most popular dimension, followed by education and health among 9 composite indices of human well-being. However, the indices including the dimension faced difficulty in defining the concept, which is unresolved now. Indeed, security can include other important dimensions such as environment, freedom and equality, as some of the indices you chose indeed include. It is important to set a universal standard in order to select one component and one or two indicators for security if it is incorporated into the HDI. Alternatively some components could be employed in the case of independently creating a composite security index (like the past HFI or PFI), as is the case with your Social Fabric Index. In any case, I hope more active discussion will ensue so that a universal security index will be accepted and used within the UN.

Best wishes,



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