Human Development Report of Assam

Assam Economy - Assamexam

Human Development Report of Assam


Human Development Index

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic (composite index) of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. A country scores higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, and the GDP per capita is higher. The HDI was developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq for the UNDP.

HDI has three components denoting three basic capabilities related to health, education and living standard. The realised levels of achievement in the three components are measured by a set of indicators. Over the last two decades, these indicators have undergone several changes to reflect the responsive and evolving nature of the approach. For instance, in the education dimension, indicators of literacy rate and combined gross enrollment ratio have been replaced, in 2010, by mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling. These changes became imperative as countries progressed along literacy and enrollment over the last two decades, reducing the distinguishing power of these previous indicators.

Published on 4 November 2010 (and updated on 10 June 2011), the 2010 Human Development Index (HDI) combines three dimensions:

  • A long and healthy life: Life expectancy at birth
  • Education index: Mean years of schooling (MYS) and Expected years of schooling (EYS)
  • A decent standard of living: Per capita Income

In its 2010 Human Development Report, the UNDP began using a new method of calculating the HDI. The following three indices are used:

  1. Life Expectancy Index (LEI) – LEI is 1 when Life expectancy at birth is 85 and 0 when Life expectancy at birth is 20.
  2. Education Index(EI)
    1. Mean Years of Schooling Index (MYSI)-Fifteen is the projected maximum of this indicator for 2025.
    2. Expected Years of Schooling Index (EYSI) – Eighteen is equivalent to achieving a master’s degree in most countries.
  3. Income Index (II) – II is 1 when GNI per capita is $75,000 and 0 when GNI per capita is $100.

Finally, the HDI is the Geometric Mean of the previous three normalized indices.

Human Development Indicators and Indices in Assam


Life Expectancy at Birth

The indicator of life expectancy at birth is used to measure the realised achievement in the health dimension, that is, ‘to be able to live a long life’. The life expectancy at birth denotes the number of years that a child can expect to live at the time of birth, given the age-specific mortality rates in the population. The life expectancy, however, is an indicator of very long-term improvement in health.

In India, data on life expectancy at birth are available through Sample Registration System (SRS) only up to the state level usually disaggregated at the levels of male-female and rural-urban. The latest available SRS data (2006-10) estimate life expectancy at birth in Assam at 62 years (male 61 years and female 63.2 years) putting the state in the bottom echelon.

This low achievement of the state in health functioning is consequent on high infant and child mortality together with high adult mortality in the state since life expectancy at birth depends on an age-specific mortality pattern. Low probability in child survival adversely affects the life expectancy at birth in the state.

Based on HDR survey data, the life expectancy at birth in the state is found to be 54 years. District level estimates of life expectancy at birth reveal that life expectancy varies widely across districts. The highest life expectancy is estimated in Kamrup (71.88) while the lowest is found in Cachar (40.76).  Relatively higher life expectancies are found to be in the districts of Barpeta, Chirang, Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong, Goalpara and Marigaon. Similarly, relatively lower life expectancies are found in districts of Baksa, Karimganj, Hailakandi, tinsukia and Sonitpur

The life expectancy in rural areas is found to be lower (53.39) than in urban areas (57.97). Religion wise, it is found that Christians have higher life expectancy (58.37) compared to Hindus (54.62) and Muslims (52.98). Moreover, the life expectancy among Other Backward Classes (OBCs) is found to be much lower (51.75) than the state average (54.0). Across spatial diversity categories, life expectancy was found to be the highest in the hill blocks (67.42). On the other hand, border, flood-affected and tea garden blocks have been found to be disadvantaged in terms of life expectancies.


Mean Years of Schooling

Mean Years of Schooling (MYS) is one of the two indicators used to measure educational achievement in HDRs by UNDP. It replaced the literacy rate as an indicator under the education dimension in 2010. MYS indicates the average number of completed years of education of a country’s population. Usually, MYS is estimated for populations aged 25 years and older, which is also the indicator used in the calculation of the HDI by UNDP.

MYS is derived from data on educational attainment. For obtaining estimates of MYS, distribution of population by age and educational attainment is required at a given point of time. The officially required number of years for each level of education is then applied as a multiplier to the age-education frequency distribution to get the mean years from the distribution.

Based on the HDR survey data, the MYS for Assam is estimated at 6.1710. Given the normative goal of 15 years which ensures secondary level of schooling11, the present educational achievement in the state is only about 40 per cent of the goal12. Besides, there is a clear rural-urban divide with MYS in rural areas at 5.70 and that in urban areas at 8.59.

The second visible divide is observed in male- female achievement levels: the MYS of males is estimated at 6.93 against the MYS of females at 5.32. Differences in MYS are also prominent along religious and social categories. The MYS amongst Hindus is found to be 6.85 compared to 4.49 amongst Muslims.

Similarly, MYS is found to be lower (5.92) amongst SCs compared to other social categories. In terms of MYS, the most disadvantaged section is found to be rural Muslim women – their MYS is estimated as a mere 3.3. However, the estimated MYS for rural Muslim women varies widely across districts, the lowest being observed in Darrang (1.55 only) and the highest is found in Sibsagar (7.98).

District wise estimates show that MYS ranges from 3.77 to 9.16. The highest MYS of 9.16 is found in Kamrup (M) while the lowest 3.77 is found in Darrang. In terms of MYS in rural areas, Darrang again figures at the bottom with 3.59 followed by Dhubri with 4.09. The highest MYS in rural areas is observed in Sibsagar (8.26) followed by Jorhat (7.20) and Nalbari (7.07). As far as the MYS among females is concerned, the lowest is found again in Darrang (2.87) followed by Baksa (3.51) and Dhubri (3.50). The highest MYS in females is obtained in Kamrup Metro (8.35) followed by Sibsagar (7.79) and Jorhat (7.22). This notwithstanding, the highest gender gaps in MYS are also observed in Sibsagar, Kamrup (M) and Jorhat.

Expected Years of Schooling

The second indicator of educational achievement in HDI is Expected Years of Schooling (EYS) which replaced the gross enrolment ratio in 2010. Nevertheless, EYS is built upon enrolment rates. EYS is a measure of the number of years of schooling a child at the start of his or her education is expected to receive, if current rates of enrolment are maintained throughout the child’s life13. The advantages of using this indicator are that it represents a measure which takes into account both stock and flow dimensions of the school system and it does not require standardisation in comparing countries or societies with distinct age structures. The indicator is intended to represent knowledge accumulation under the formal school system where higher value of EYS is believed to denote higher accumulated knowledge.

For Assam, the estimated EYS is found to be 11.85 years15. This indicates that, on an average, given the present enrolment pattern in the state, a child is expected to complete at least the secondary level when he or she starts going to school. There are, however, many divides. The EYS in rural areas is found to be 11.80 which is less than the EYS of 12.20 estimated in urban areas. The EYS for males is found to be 11.72 against that of females which is 11.99. Similar divides are also noticed across religious and social categories.

District level estimates reveal that EYS in the state varies in the range 10.98 to 12.57. The lowest if found in Hailakandi (10.98) and the highest is found in Chirang (12.57). Similarly, tea garden areas and areas with multiple diversities have relatively low EYS compared to other spatial diversity categories.


Per Capita Income 

Income per capita is considered as an ‘indirect’ indicator of human development. The first HDR of UNDP (1990) observes that an indicator of ‘command over resources needed for a decent living’ requires data on access to land, credit, income and other sources. However, there is a dearth of reliable data covering all these aspects. Since data on GDP per capita are widely available, this indicator is taken to represent the income dimension of human development. In 2010, instead of GDP per capita, Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is taken as the indicator. For allowing cross-country comparison, the GNI per capita of the countries was adjusted by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) ratios.

However, income has the peculiar property of having diminishing contribution to human development as income rises. Therefore, income needs ‘treatment’ to reflect such a feature and, over the last two decades, various treatments have been applied in HDRs16. The 2010 method uses logarithmic transformation over income values to reflect this property. As income rises, a marginal change in logarithmic transformation of income declines giving lower weights to higher income.

In a state HDR, ideal replacement for GNI per capita is taken to be the Net District Domestic Product (NDDP) measured in constant prices. However, since NDDPs are district aggregates, the underlying distribution is not known. To make the indicator consistent with inequality measures, instead of NDDP the average per capita annual income estimates of the districts obtained from the HDR survey are used in the report. This also allows other disaggregation. It has been found that the estimated Per Capita Annual Income (PCAI) from the household level data fairly match the latest (2012-13) data on NDDP (2004-05 prices) for the districts. There are obvious gaps in PCAI in rural and urban sectors. The average PCAI in rural areas is only about 40 per cent of that of the urban areas (INR 22,087 in rural against INR 56,157 in urban areas). It could further be found that the average PCAI of Christians (INR 16,068) is the lowest followed by Muslims (INR 18,228). The average PCAI of Hindus is found as INR 28,092. A similar income gap prevails amongst different social categories as well. The average PCAI of STs is the lowest (INR. 21,445) compared to that of other social categories.

District wise, the highest PCAI was found in Kamrup (Metro) (INR 63,444) followed by Jorhat (INR 38,664). The lowest PCAI was obtained in Hailakandi (INR 16,632) followed by Dhubri (INR 16,336). In general, it is found that low PCAIs in border areas, areas with multiple spatial diversities and amongst religious minorities are major downward factors in the income dimension.

It could also be found that the average PCAI in all spatial diversity categories is lower than the state average. The average PCAI is found to be the lowest in border and hill blocks.


HDI across the Districts of Assam

The HDI is a composite index derived on the basis of dimensional achievements in health, education and income. The HDIs are estimated for the districts19 based on the UNDP’s new method (2010). The index presents the status of human development in the districts. The values of HDI represent how much progress the people have made in overall human development given the pattern of dimensional achievements in the district and the normative goal of capability expansion. The values of the index range between 0 and 1 – where 0 implies no progress made and 1 signifies complete achievement with regard to the normative goals set for the purpose of assessment.

The present report estimates the value of HDI for the state as a whole at 0.557. This tells us that given the desired normative goal, the present level of progress in overall human development in the state is just a little beyond the halfway mark. The highest attainment is observed in Kamrup (M) and the lowest in Hailakandi. In 15 of 27 districts, the average level of achievement in human development is found to be more than the state average.

It could also be seen that, in general, educational achievement is the main driver of overall human development in the state and districts. However, in certain districts, namely, Dima Hasao, Kamrup, Barpeta, Chirang, Karbi Anglong, Goalpara and Marigaon, achievements in the health dimension have contributed substantially to overall human development. Contrary to this, barring the district of Kamrup(M), achievements in the income dimension have remained relatively lower limiting the improvement in overall human development. Further, the PCAI and values of HDI across the districts indicate a clear positive correlation. Therefore, improving the HDI requires ensuring income and livelihood of people across the state. Income and employment, thus, emerge as the most significant policy variable for enhancing overall human development in the state. This is, however, not to undermine the significance of the other two dimensions of human development in the state.

Assam’s Human Development - compared to the neighbouring region

The estimated value of HDI indicating the present status of human development in Assam is found to be 0.557. It may be mentioned that according to the global HDR (2014), the value of HDI for India is 0.586. Therefore, the present report puts Assam in the band of medium human development states. It may further be mentioned that the HDIs of neighbouring countries of Bhutan and Bangladesh are also in the same band.

The National HDR, 2011 provides the value of HDI for the state as 0.44421. This marks an improvement of 15 per cent point over the HDI value of 0.386 for the state given in the National HDR 200122. The comparative picture of the human development outcome in 2011 indicates that Assam’s achievement falls within the category of low HDI in the country. Besides, the Assam HDR 2003 estimated the HDI for Assam at 0.40723.


Human development in Assam remains about half way in relation to the desired level. The dimensional achievements differ district wise as well as important diversity wise, that is, spatial, demographic and sector wise. The differential achievements in human development observed in the districts, thus, need to be accounted for these diversities within the districts. Improving income and health emerges as the most critical policy concern. Gainful employment thus assumes the central place in the human development strategy in the state.

Inequalities in opportunity with regard to health, education and income have been pervasive and these result in considerable loss in potential development achievements in the state. The distinct divides in achievements, therefore, are to be bridged to improve overall human development in the state.

Notwithstanding this, the various processes of service delivery and governance have significant impact over levels of achievements and those need to be set right for better development outcomes. All these hint at major policy directions in terms of addressing multi-dimensional deprivation and inequality in the state.