Chanakya IAS Academy Blog



Human development is about enlarging human choices- focusing on the richness of human lives rather than simply the richness of economies. Critical to this process is work, which engages people all over the world in different ways and takes up a major part of their lives.

This year's Human Development Report explores how work can enhance human development, given that the world of work is changing fast and that substantial human development challenges remain. The Report takes a broad view of work, including voluntary work and creative work, thus going beyond jobs.

The Report concludes that work can enhance human development when policies expand productive, remunerative and satisfying work opportunities, enhance workers' skills and potential and ensure their rights, safety and well-being.

Work enhances human development, but some work damages human development and some work puts workers at risk. When positive, work provides benefits beyond material wealth and fosters community, knowledge, strengthens dignity and inclusion. Nearly a billion workers in agriculture, 450 million entrepreneurs, 80 million workers in health and education, 53 million domestic workers, 970 million voluntary workers contribute to human progress. When negative, in the form of forced labour, child labour and human trafficking, work can violate human rights, threaten freedom and shatter dignity. An estimated 21 million people are currently in forced labour of whom 14 million (67 percent) were exploited for labour and 4.5 million (22 percent) sexually exploited. There are still 168 million child labourers worldwide. And some work e.g. work in hazardous industries may put workers in risk. There are 30 million workers in mining and their face risks every day.

Over the past two decades, the world has made major strides in human development. Today, people are living longer, more children are going to school and more people have access to clean water and basic sanitation.

Since 1990, 2 billion people have been lifted out of low human development, extreme income poverty has been reduced by more than a billion. Every region of the world has seen Human Development Index (HDI) gains.

At the same time, human progress has been uneven with deep human deprivations. And significant human potential remains unused, misused and abused. More than 200 million people with 74 million young people are out of work, more than 800 million working poor are living on less than $2 a day.

Overcoming the existing human deprivations and addressing the emerging human development challenges will require optimal use of the world’s human potential.

Today, the transformation of work is driven by globalization and technological revolutions, particularly the digital revolution. Globalization has fostered global interdependence, with major impacts on patterns of trade, investment, growth and job creation and destruction—as well as on networks for creative and volunteer work. We seem to be living through new and accelerated technological revolutions. New opportunities are emerging, but so do new risks. In this new world of work there are winners, so are losers and human development impacts mixed.


Mobile phones and mobile Internet service offer many new opportunities and advantagesto workers and to economies more generally as:

  • Access to dynamic price information.
  • Productivity gains.
  • Job creation.
  • Supply chain management
  • Labour market services
  • Mobile banking.
  • Access to finance.

In 2015 the global labour force participation rate was 50 percent for women but 77 percent for men. Worldwide in 2015, 72 percent of working-age men were employed, compared with only 47 percent of women. Female participation in the labour force and employment rates are heavily affected by economic, social and cultural issues and care work distributions at home.

Men dominate the world of paid work, women the world of unpaid work. Of the 59 percent of work that is paid, mostly outside the home, men’s share is nearly twice that of women—38 percent versus 21 percent. The picture is reversed for unpaid work, mostly within the home and encompassing a range of care responsibilities: of the 41 percent of work that is unpaid, women perform three times more than men—31 percent versus 10 percent.

In the realm of paid work, women are engaged in the workforce less than men, their work tends to be more vulnerable (globally half of employed women are in vulnerable jobs) and they are under-represented in senior management (in businesses, women represent only 22 percent of senior managers.), reinforcing disadvantages. In the realm of unpaid work, women share more of the care burden (undertaking more childcare, care for elders and those with disabilities), which limits their options, discretionary free time and access to social pensions.

The report calls for reducing the burden of unpaid care work, expanding opportunities for women to engage in paid work. Outcomes could be improved by equal pay, flexible work, greater social protection, parental leave and addressing harassment and social norms that exclude women from work. There is also a need for valuing unpaid care work for advocacy and policy purposes.

Sustainable work refers to work that promotes human development while ensuring sustainability. It is critical not only for sustaining the planet, but also for ensuring work for future generations.

Some occupations can be expected to loom larger—railway technicians, for instance, as countries invest in mass transit systems. Terminated workers may predominate in sectors that draw heavily on natural resources or emit greenhouse gases or other pollutants. About 50 million people are employed globally in such sectors (7 million in coal mining, for example).

For sustainable work to become more widely prevalent, three developments are needed in parallel: termination, transformation and creation, each requiring specific actions by national and international policymakers, industry and other private sector actors, civil society and individuals.

  • Termination. Some existing work will have to end, and the workers displaced will need to be accommodated in other occupations (bottom-left square of the matrix in the infographic).
  • Transformation. Some existing work will need to be transformed in order to be preserved through a combination of investment in adaptable new technologies and retraining or skill upgrading (top-left and bottom-right).
  • Creation. Some work will be largely novel, benefiting both sustainability and human development, but will emerge from outside the current set of occupations (top-right square of the matrix in the infographic).

Sustainable work (in the top-right square of the matrix in the infographic) takes place in developed and developing economies, but it can differ in scale, in the conditions of work, in the links to human development and in the implications for policy.

Policy options for enhancing human development through work have to be built around three broad clusters:

  • creating more work opportunities to expand work choices
  • ensuring workers' well-being to reinforce a positive link between work and human development
  • targeted actions to address the challenges of specific groups and contexts.

An agenda for action to build momentum for change is also needed pursuing a three-pillar approach—a New Social Contract, a Global Deal and the Decent Work Agenda.

HDI- The Human Development Index

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite index focusing on three basic dimensions of human development: to lead a long and healthy life, measured by life expectancy at birth; the ability to acquire knowledge, measured by mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling; and the ability to achieve a decent standard of living, measured by gross national income per capita. The HDI has an upper limit of 1.0.

To measure human development more comprehensively, the Human Development Report also presents four other composite indices. The Inequality adjusted HDI discounts the HDI according to the extent of inequality. The Gender Development Index compares female and male HDI values. The Gender Inequality Index highlights women’s empowerment. And the Multidimensional Poverty Index measures non income dimensions of poverty.

The HDI was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. The HDI can also be used to question national policy choices, asking how two countries with the same level of GNI per capita can end up with different human development outcomes. These contrasts can stimulate debate about government policy priorities.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living. The HDI is the geometric mean of normalized indices for each of the three dimensions.

The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth, the education dimension is measured by mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age. The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita. The HDI uses the logarithm of income, to reflect the diminishing importance of income with increasing GNI. The scores for the three HDI dimension indices are then aggregated into a composite index using geometric mean.

Read 1712 times Last modified on Monday, 20 June 2016 17:44

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