Human Development Report 2021/22 – Bhutan

More than 30 years ago, the Human Development Index (HDI) and the related annual Global Human Development Report were first introduced. The Human Development Index is a statistically composite index of life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators that can be used to categorize participating countries into four levels of human development. In the 2021/22 report, Bhutan is among the countries in the medium human development category with a score of 0.666 for 2021, ranking 127 out of 191 countries .

Bhutan’s progress in human development

Between 2010 and 2021, Bhutan’s HDI increased from 0.581 to 0.666, a 14.6 percent increase. Life expectancy at birth increased by 3.4 years and the average length of schooling increased by 2.9 years during the same period. Between 2010 and 2021, gross national income per person also registered an increase of 22.3 percent. (Source: Human Development Report 2022).

Inequality within Bhutan’s population

In 2010 the Human Development Report introduced the Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), which captures the losses in human development due to inequality across the population in health, education and income. The ‘loss’ in human development due to inequality is given by the difference between the HDI and the IHDI and can be expressed as a percentage. In the year 2021 Bhutan’s IHDI is 0.471 (a loss of development of 29.3 percent compared to the HDI for the same year).

Multidimensional Poverty

Another index of the HD Report, the MPI (Multidimensional Poverty Index), identifies multiple overlapping deprivations suffered by individuals in 3 dimensions: health, education and standard of living. The most recent survey data that were  available for this report refer to 2010. At that time 37.3 percent of the population in Bhutan (282 thousand people) were multidimensionally poor while an additional 17.7 percent were classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty (133 thousand people).

Bhutan’s Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022

Meanwhile, Bhutan conducted its own study on the multidimensional poverty index in 2022. The Moderate Multidimensional Poverty Index (MMPI) of Bhutan is based on the data of the Bhutan Living Standard Survey (BLSS) 2022 conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics of Bhutan. For the moderate multidimensional poverty index, the increased standard of living of the population was factored in, unlike the original MPI, which measures a more extreme level of poverty called “acute” multidimensional poverty.

In 2022, the moderate multidimensional poverty rate is estimated at 17.8% of the population. The urban multidimensional poverty rate is 8.2%, while the rural poverty rate is 23.9%. 61.4% of poor Bhutanese* live in rural areas.

Disadvantages in access to health (18.0%) account for the largest share of national poverty, followed by water and school attendance (15.7%) and the number of years of schooling for women (15.3%).

The report shows that the MMPI complements the measurement of monetary poverty. 12.4% of Bhutanese are monetarily poor according to the 2022 BLSS dataset, and 17.8% are poor according to the moderate MPI. There is only partial overlap between the two groups. In fact, only 4.7% of Bhutanese were both monetarily and multidimensionally poor in the 2022 BLSS.

Gender Equality

Another notable aspect of the Human Development Report concerns gender equality. The Gender Development Index (GDI) essentially measures gender gaps in human development achievements. Differences between women and men are thus taken into account in the statistical coverage. The female HDI score for 2021 in Bhutan is 0.641 (as opposed to 0.684 for males). This results in a GDI value of 0.937.

In addition to the GDI, the GII (Gender Inequality Index) reflects gender inequalities in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment  and economic activity. In the 2021/22 HDI report, Bhutan has a GII score of 0.421, which places the country 98th out of 191 countries.

The 2021/22 Human Development Report mentions several key issues related to gender equality in Bhutan:

  • 16.7 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women
  • 23.6 percent of adult women have attained at least secondary education (compared to 32.3 percent of men)
  • For every 100,000 live births, an average of 183.0 women die from pregnancy-related causes, and the adolescent birth rate is 19 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 years
  • Labor force participation for women is 51.6 percent compared to 67.4 percent for men

In light of this information, as well as Bhutan’s GDI and GII, it can be noted that although important steps have been taken towards gender equality, further action is needed to achieve a more equal distribution of human development across both genders.

The full HDI 2021-22 report can be found at:

 Human Development Report 2012-22