Measuring Human Development for the Anthropocene

By Ajay Chhibber

This paper makes the case for an adjusted Human Development Index (HDI) that adds sustainability, vulnerability and human security to the existing HDI components of income, health and education. It shows that these additional elements were part of the discourse in many original writings on human development. They are also central in any discourse on development today. The HDI has made progress by adding gender and inequality in its formulations, but is more reflective of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) agenda than the more comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2015. The paper reviews existing indicators and suggests a way towards an adjusted HDI. It shows that above an HDI level of 0.8, the cut-off for very high human development, major trade-offs emerge with ecology. It argues for incorporating ecological and human security variables into the HDI, and creating a vulnerability-adjusted HDI that measures resilience to ecological, health and economic shocks, akin to the Inequality-adjusted HDI.