Social Development of India

Development is often measured in wealth. How much do goods and services cost in a country? How much money does the average person make? However, just because a country and its people can produce a lot of money doesn't always mean they have a healthy, dignified, and enriched life. There are things that money can't buy. As India becomes a more affluent country, let's look at how this change has affected it socially. 

Social Development of India Social Development of India

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Table of contents

    Elements of social development in India

    Social development is measured through elements that affect the well-being of people, so indicators of health, education, employment, and gender equality are used and can be quantified through measurements such as life expectancy and the adult literacy rate.

    Social development is about the way society is changing. Rather than referring to economic changes in development, it is about the changes to the well-being of the people in society.

    Changing population structure

    According to the demographic transition model and the five stages of development, India is in the third stage.

    The demographic transition model shows the changes in population with birth and death rates as the country develops economically. Less economically developed countries are usually seen in stages 2 or 3. More economically developed countries are seen at stage 4 or 5.

    Social Development of India Demographic transitional model StudySmarterFig. 1 - Demographic transitional model

    Life expectancy in India has drastically improved since the 1950s when the average was 35.21 years, and now, in 2022, an average of 70.19 years. This is due to more healthcare facilities, accessibility to medical care, and clean water, which lead to fewer deaths. The population structure is changing with the rise in life expectancy. There are fewer young people and more older people who can work, leading to a more extensive workforce with fewer dependants.

    Changing workforce

    There is also a change in the nature of the workforce, as the middle class is growing. There are four types of jobs, primary, which is getting raw materials from the land; secondary, which is processing the raw materials; tertiary which is providing a service; quaternary, which is ICT and research. The main type of industry was primary up until the 1980s. In the late 1980s, transnational corporations were encouraged, leading to factories being built and growth in secondary jobs in manufacturing. As the factory workers made more money, they could afford services such as healthcare and entertainment. With the secondary and tertiary industries growing, more of the population became middle class. This means that people are making more money and can afford material goods such as cars and washing machines.

    Rising adult literacy

    Literacy is essential in social development as being able to read and write is vital for comprehending and communicating, which is needed for human development. The adult literacy rate is used to measure adult literacy.

    The adult literacy rate is the percentage of people over 15 years old who can read and write. Literacy also includes numeracy, meaning that simple arithmetics are also seen as part of the adult literacy rate.

    The adult literacy rate in India in 2018 was 74.4%, a significant improvement from 48.2% in 1991; it grew at an average of 11.78% annually. The growth in numbers is linked to the rising numbers of female literacy over the years and national initiatives of free learning and reading programmes provided in rural areas for men and women.

    The Constitution of India has implemented educational rights to provide education to all. In particular, actions that include the education of minorities, free and compulsory education, and equality of opportunities in educational institutions are a part of the Constitution to try and help with adult literacy.

    Social indicators of development in India

    Social development indicators (SDI) in India include the social progress index (SPI) and the human development index (HDI). However, these indicators are the average for the whole country.

    Social development index of India

    The social development index is based on three indicators, basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity. Basic human needs cover nutrition and basic medical care, water and sanitation, shelter, and personal safety. The foundations of well-being cover access to basic knowledge, information and communications, and environmental quality. Opportunity relates to personal rights, personal freedom and choice, tolerance and inclusion, and access to advanced education.

    Social Development of India Global Social Progress Index 2020 map StudySmarterFig. 2 - Global Social Progress Index 2020 map

    In 2020, India was 117th out of 163 countries, with an SPI score of 56.80. Areas in which there is social progress are shelter and access to information and communication. From the results, it can be seen that there has been an increase in affordable housing and accessibility to online governance. The areas which need improvement are the environmental challenges such as pollution that India faces from the growing industrial sites.

    Human development index

    The Human development index (HDI) is often used as an index for the development of a country and measures social aspects of a healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having a decent standard of living. They use four indicators: the average length of schooling years, literacy rate, gross national income (GNI), and life expectancy.

    Social development of India human development index of the world StudySmarterFig. 3 - A world map of the human development index in 2020

    India's HDI in 2019 was 0.645 and 131th out of 189 countries. The two particularly strong indicators are life expectancy and schooling. Between 1990 and 2019, life expectancy has grown by 11.8 years, the average length of schooling has increased by 3.5 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.5 years.

    Social impacts of rapid development in India

    Not all social impacts of rapid development were positive. There are negative and positive social impacts because of rapid development. Let's dive into both!

    Positive social impacts of rapid development

    Positive social impacts of rapid development can be seen in the improvement of healthcare and clean water leading to higher life expectancy and lower death rates. Literacy levels are rising due to the government putting energy into education for all. India has attracted transnational companies such as Toyota, Volvo, and Hyundai, which produce cars and create jobs for the local people. They also invest in new facilities and infrastructure for the surrounding communities.

    Negative social impacts of rapid development

    The negative social impact of rapid development can be seen in the pollution created by the factories, such as a soft drink bottling plant in Kerala, contaminating water supplies. There is also a problem of being unable to keep up with the growing demand for affordable housing for recent migrants from rural areas. There is a lot of pressure on transport systems and job opportunities, leading to people working long hours in poor conditions with low pay.

    Areas of social development in India

    Although social development in India is improving, there are still areas with development potential.

    Uneven development

    Looking at India's social development across the country, we can see that not all areas are evenly developed. The south and west of India are more developed than the north and east. There are a couple of reasons for this disparity. Coastal locations have the advantage of being linked to trading routes, such as Mumbai, compared with landlocked places like Bihar. The south and west developed large container ports, which led to an even larger gap as these areas gained importance in a globalised market. The south and the west have a naturally low fertility rate. For example, in Kerala in the south, the fertility rate is 1.8, slightly higher than in the UK. The Green Revolution was happening the most in the south and the west and helped those areas to thrive.

    The Green Revolution is an increase in the production of grain and cereals for developing countries to be more self-sufficient.

    Social Development of India Human Development Index map of India, 2022  StudySmarterFig. 4 - Human Development Index map of India, 2022

    Gender inequality

    India has ranked low at 135th of 146 countries in the gender gap report from the World Economic Forum, showing the gender-based inequalities affecting women. This report looks at four key areas of the gender gap: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

    The gender gap is the difference in how men and women are treated in society. This can be seen in the rights each person has, the access to opportunities, and the benefits that are given.

    From this report, it can be seen that health and survival, and political empowerment were particular areas that scored lower than other countries. For health and survival, gender-based violence and healthcare for women not being prioritised are issues. There is not enough representation of women in government institutions for political empowerment.

    Social Development of India - Key takeaways

    • Social development focuses on the way society is changing rather than economic changes in development. It is about the changes to the well-being of the people in society.
    • The social development of India in recent years is about the changing population structure, changing workforce, and rise in adult literacy.
    • Social development indicators are the social progress index and the human development index. The social progress index is based on measures of basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity. The human development index is measured through the average length of schooling years, literacy rate, gross national income (GNI), and life expectancy).
    • There are not only positive but also negative social impacts of rapid development.
    • There are areas of potential for social development, particularly uneven development across the country and gender inequality.


    1. Fig. 2 Global Social Progress Index 2020 map ( by Korakys ( Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (
    2. Fig. 3 Map of human development index of the world ( by Flappy Pigeon ( Licensed by CC BY-SA-4.0 (
    3. Fig. 4 Map of human development index of India ( by AllahuAkbar1234567 ( Licensed by CC BY-SA-4.0 (
    Frequently Asked Questions about Social Development of India

    How has India developed socially?

    India has developed socially in many ways. One would be better health care leading to higher life expectancy, another would be adult literacy rates rising due to national initiatives of learning and reading programmes. 

    What is social development in India?

    Social development is about the way society is changing, so in India, there are social developments in population structure and quality of life.

    Is India a socially developed country?

    According to the comparison with other countries in the Social progress index, India comes 117nd out of 163 countries. In this context, India is seen as not as socially developed as many countries.

    What are the problems of social development in India?

    The problems of social development in India are the gap between the areas which are not socially developed and the others that are socially developed. There are disparities in education, class, and gender that need to be addressed.

    What are the stages of social development?

    The Demographic transition model has five stages of development. The stages are based on the demographics of birth and death rates and sees it as connected with the economic growth of the country.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the below is NOT used to measure social development?

    In which stage is India of the demographic transition model?

    Which of the below is NOT helping India's rise in life expectancy?

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