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Transcript of Living Standards
Each year the United Nations publishes a Human Development Report. Prior to 2011 the report contained an index that ranked its member countries according to three measures:
per capita GDP
The Divided Planet
In 1949, President Truman referred to a world of
nations. By this he meant that some countries were industrialized, with their people well-housed, healthy, and educated. Their infrastructure - such things as transportation and communications links, electric-power distribution systems, schools, and hospitals - was well developed.
The Poverty Trap
It is estimated that almost 800 million people in developing countries are starving or malnourished. Yet, the world produces enough food to feed all six billion people an adequate diet. For many of the poor, the problem is not being able to purchase the food that is available.
The money spent on aid is dwarfed by the money spent on armaments in the world. In 1998, military spending was estimated to be $780 billion U.S. For $6 billion everyone could have a basic education, $9 billion would supply water and sanitation, and $12 billion would ensure reproductive health for all women. Basic health and nutrition could be achieved for $13 billion.
The Health Crisis
An estimated 1.2 billion people around the world lack safe water, a figure that is expected to double by the year 2025.
The Vulnerable Ones: Women and Children
The burden of poverty creates particular hardships for women and children:
- male dominated societies where women and children have lower status
- no legal rights or treated as property
- women may be killed to satisfy a family's honour
- women and children eat what is left over after men have finished eating
- women may have to work for over 12 hours a day
- education is often a luxury restricted to males
- incentive to marry young
Geography and Global Issues
Gross domestic product (GDP)
is the total value of all goods and services produced in a country in one year. If you divide this number by the number of people in the country you get the average GDP per person, or per capita.
Beginning in 2011 the following measures were used to rank countries:
mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling
gross national income per capita
The purpose of this index is to give a crude indication of different levels of economic and social development among the countries of the world.
Which regions generally score highest on the HDI?
Which regions generally score lowest?
There is a huge gap between the countries at the top and those at the bottom. In 1998 the wealth of the 200 richest people in the world was greater than the combined income of 41% of the world's population
Underdeveloped countries had few schools, doctors, and hospitals; roads were mainly unpaved; there were few railways; few people had telephones; and only cities had electrical power.
Today, other terms are used to describe countries:
: A country with a highly developed economy, with a strong service sector and often an industrial base. Citizens have the highest standards of living in the world, with the highest levels of literacy, health services, and food supplies.
Newly industrializing country
: A country in the transition stage between developing and developed nations. Most have rapidly growing economies.
: A country with an economy that depends more on primary industries, and where citizens have a lower standard of living than those in developed countries.
Highly indebted poor country (HPIC)
: A country that is so in debt to developed countries that most of its gross domestic product is used to pay interest on those debts. Such countries rate the lowest on the U.N. Human Development Index.
Levels of economic development are hard to measure accurately in developing countries. Money may not be used in transactions, and the wealth of a country may not be shared among the people.
A person living in poverty in Canada has access to health care, education and other services. There are government programs and private agencies that provide a safety net of services that do not exist for most of the poor people in developing countries.
A very poor family in a city there is likely to live in a dwelling made from scrap materials with no electricity, sanitation, or access to safe water.
The World Bank - an international lending agency - estimates that 1.3 billion people live below the poverty line of less than one dollar per person per day.
Prior to 1999, a set income figure was used to measure poverty. A 1999 report redefined poverty as spending more than 56% of a person's or family's income on the necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing.
In 1998, the report found that 17.2 per cent of Canadians or 5.1 million people lived below the poverty line in Canada.
Demographers agree that economic development and the fertility rate of countries are connected. A decline in the number of children a woman has in her lifetime frees her to improve her lot and that of her children.
Study after study shows that better educated women have fewer children. They tend to marry later and bear children later.
Their children are also more likely to survive. Educated women know more about the importance of immunization, clean water, and good nutrition.
Women in Niger:
- larger role in economy to keep families from starving
- bound to obey wishes of husbands, fathers, brothers, and other male relatives
- polygamy is widespread
- average marrying age is 15
- average number of children per woman is 7.4
Five measures that make up the child-risk index:
- mortality rates of children under 5
- percentage of children who are moderately or severely underweight
- numbers of children who do not attend primary school
- risks from armed conflict
- risks from HIV/AIDS
Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan and other highly developed nations had risk scores of five or below - differences that are of no consequence, according to UNICEF. Africa is the continent where children face the greatest risks. Africa's average score was 61, compared to Europe's average of 6, and the world average of 30.
More than of under-five deaths in developing countries are due to malnutrition. According to UNICEF, three million children die each year of diseases related to poor sanitation and lack of hygiene and clean water.
Approximately 540 million children in the world live in dangerous and unstable conditions. Civil wars, land mines, ethnic cleansing, and other dangers affect children and their mothers in disproportionate numbers.
Child soldier - Madeleine on Youtube
According to Amnesty International there were at least 300,000 children and young adults under the age of 18 who were engaged in armed conflicts around the world, often involuntarily.
In many developing countries, children are working to help support themselves and their families. There are no labour laws that regulate safety conditions or the hours that children work.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the world's diseases are caused in some way by contaminated water.
Despite advances in medicine, epidemics of tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, and malaria are widespread in the developing world.
An epidemic that occurs over a wide geographic area.
Most serious, now and for the future, is the uncontrolled spread of the AIDS
The effect of the pandemic in Africa is being felt in the structure of populations, as those dying are often the productive workers. The long term effects will be cultural and economic. Scarce resources will have to be used to deal with the epidemic, at it is likely to add to problems of poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were to provide loans and development assistance to help countries improve their standards of living through economic growth.
Governments in developing countries were encouraged to engage in megaprojects, such as dam building and agricultural irrigation to promote economic growth.
A world economic slowdown in the 1970s led to a collapse in prices for commodities these governments were exporting, such as minerals and agricultural products, making repayment of the debts difficult.
The IMF and World Bank lent money to help countries pay their debts but in return, debtor countries had to restructure their economies - allow greater foreign investment, grow cash crops for export, and allow private companies to run governement services. These measures are called
structural adjustment programs (SAPs)
Many debtor countries have few natural resources or receive low prices for them on the world market because there is an oversupply, or their resources are under the control of foreign
Canada has been in the forefront in calling for an easing of debt owed by HIPCs. Canada has forgiven all overseas development aid debt to all the HIPCs except Myanmar, which is governed by a military dictatorship.
Watch: The End of Poverty
is funded by a number of governments, and usually involves large-scale programs like dam building.
is tied aid, given with conditions attached.
More than 30% of Canadian bilateral and multilateral aid is tied to Canadian purchases. A criticism of Western aid projects is that they have been tied too much to the trade system that benefits the industrialized countries at the expense of the developing world.
UNICEF has been in the forefront in fighting iodine deficiency disorder, a disease that can cause mental retardation and stunt growth. The addition of a few grams of inexpensive iodized table salt to the daily diet prevents this disorder.
Developing countries receive foreign aid from various sources. It can be provided through international bodies such as the United Nations, national government agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and many
non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
representing religious groups, services organizations such as Rotary International, and other non-profit organizations such as Oxfam.
NGO aid projects often operate at the grassroots level, providing direct assistance to people. Often the development assistance of NGOs has been more effective than the large projects sponsored by governments, as the aid goes directly to the people who benefit from the projects.
The amount Canada contributes to foreign aid has been decreasing for the past two decades.
It is clear that poverty is at the root of the problems in the developing world. Women and children in particular are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Too many of the world's people are still malnourished, in poor health, poorly housed, and without a secure economic future.
The most successful forms of aid have come from programs that consult the local people and listen to their suggestions, giving the help of outside donor agencies if required.
An improvement in the status of women has been shown to reduce fertility and improve children's health.
1. India (some parts): Road safety rules don’t apply to women. In some states of India, women are excepted from safety rules that mandate motorcycle passengers wear helmets -- an exemption that kills or injures thousands each year. Women’s rights advocates have argued the exemption springs from a culture-wide devaluation of women’s lives. Supporters of the ban say they’re just trying to preserve women’s carefully styled hair and make-up -- which isn’t exactly a feminist response.
2. Yemen: A woman is considered only half a witness. That’s the policy on legal testimony in Yemen, where a woman is not, to quote a 2005 Freedom House report, “recognized as a full person before the court.” In general, a single woman’s testimony isn’t taken seriously unless it’s backed by a man’s testimony or concerns a place or situation where a man would not be. And women can’t testify at all in cases of adultery, libel, theft or sodomy.
3. Saudi Arabia and Vatican City: Women can’t vote... still. This is amazingly the case in Saudi Arabia, though a royal decree, issued in 2011, will let women vote in Saudi elections in 2015. Vatican City is the only other country that allows men, but not women, to vote.
4. Ecuador: Abortion is illegal, unless you’re an “idiot.” Begum says this is the policy in Ecuador, where abortions have long been outlawed for everyone but “idiots” and the “demented.” Politicians are considering a policy with the more politely worded term “mentally ill,” but that won’t change abortion’s legal status in Ecuador -- or, more importantly, the fact that the law is frequently used to criminalize miscarriages.
5. Saudi Arabia and Morocco: Rape victims can be charged with crimes. Many, many countries fail to protect the victims of rape, but some go a step further -- punishing women for leaving the house without a male companion, for being alone with an unrelated man, or for getting pregnant afterwards. The most infamous case may be Saudi Arabia’s “Qatif girl,” but a recent suicide in Morocco also made headlines -- 16-year-old Amina Filali killed herself after a judge forced her to marry her alleged rapist, in keeping with a policy that invalidates statutory rape charges if the parties marry.
6. Yemen: Women can’t leave the house without their husbands’ permission. Yemen, where this law remains in force, does allow for a few emergency exceptions, Begum says: if the woman must rush out to care for her ailing parents, for instance.
7. Saudi Arabia: Women can't drive. Read more about the ban and how women are challenging it here.