Having learned about the different indicators of sustainability, I chose the HDI and decided to dive deeper into its inner workings. Being a pessimist at heart, the following paper peaked my interest and attention.
I found a 2010 Human Development Research Paper that reviewed the criticisms of the index thru scrutiny of various categories such as Education, Health, Income, Redundancy in the following categories:
Education – This component of the HDI accounts for measurements that appear suspect at best when it comes to the accuracy and applicability of the metric. For instance, we all know that literacy is paramount for human development and betterment yet the plurality of literacy is not measured; such as the comprehension and application of knowledge. Numerical literacy is also not considered yet we all can appreciate the importance of this facet of education. Aside from literacy, enrollment figures are used for measurement and is criticized for accounting for drop out rates. In Africa, only 51% and 46% of boys and girls, respectively, finish primary school.
Income – This component is measured based on the GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Parity. In class we have already talked about the shortfalls of the GDP which include exclusion of black market activity, unreported activities (homeschooling, home grown foods, etc) – all of which remain a factor in the skewed calculations for HDI.
Despite these criticisms and even more pertaining to the arbitrarily assigned thresholds for each class of HDI scoring, this index does add a more human component of cross-country comparison than strict GDP calculations. It should be noted that HDI is not by an means a perfected index and should be taken with a grain of salt and supplemented by other forms of sustainable indicators as well.