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Home > Geography > International issues > Contrasts in development

Geography

Contrasts in development

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Measuring development

Studying development is essentially about measuring how developed one country is compared to other countries, or to the same country in the past. There are many different ways of considering development, but the two most important are economic development and human development.

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  • Economic development is a measure of how wealthy a country is - and of how this wealth is generated (for example agriculture is considered less economically advanced then banking).
  • Human development measures the extent to which people have access to wealth, jobs, knowledge, nutrition, health, leisure and safety - as well as political and cultural freedom. The more material elements in this list, such as wealth and nutrition, are often grouped together under the heading standard of living. The less material elements, such as health and leisure, are often referred to as quality of life.

Development indicators

There is no simple, single way to calculate the level of development of a country, region, or people, because countries and economies, cultures and peoples differ so much. Instead geographers use a series of development indicators to help them judge a country's level of development. For example:

  1. Health. Do all the people in a country have access to medical care? What level of healthcare is available - basic or advanced? Is it free or paid for?
  2. Industry. What type of industry predominates? LEDCs [LEDC: A Less Economically Developed Country [LEDC] has low levels of development, based on economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (the country's income). More of the countries in the southern hemisphere (eg countries in southern Africa, southern Asia and South America) are LEDCs, while more of the countries in the northern hemisphere are More Economically Developed Countries [MEDCs]. tend to focus more on primary industries, such as farming, fishing and mining. MEDCs [MEDC: A More Economically Developed Country [MEDC] has high levels of development, based on economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (the country's income). More of the countries in the northern hemisphere are MEDCs, eg UK, USA, Canada, Europe. More of the countries in the southern hemisphere are Less Economically Developed Countries [LEDCs]. focus on secondary industries, such as manufacturing. The most advanced countries tend to focus more on tertiary industries - services businesses, such as banking and information technology.
  3. Education. Do all the people in a country have access to education? Is it free? What level of education is available (ie primary education, secondary education or further/higher education)?
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