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Home > Geography > International issues > Contrasts in development

Geography

Contrasts in development

Human development indicators

Development often takes place in an uneven way, resulting in some countries being more developed in some ways than in others. A country may be economically developed, with a very high GDP - derived, for example, from the exploitation of rich oil reserves - while segments of the population still live in poverty, and lack access to basic education, health, and decent housing.

Hence the importance of human development indicators. These measure the non-economic aspects of a country's development, therefore helping to give a more balanced view of what constitutes development.

Teacher and pupils in a school in Guinea
An empty classroom

The most important human development indicators are:

  • Life expectancy is the average age to which a person lives, eg this is 79 in the UK and 48 in Kenya.
  • Infant mortality rate counts the number of babies, per 1,000 live births, who die under the age of one year, eg this is 5 in the UK and 61 in Kenya.
  • Poverty indices count the percentage of people living below the poverty level, or on very small incomes (eg under £1 per day).
  • Access to basic services measures the availability of services necessary for a healthy life, such as clean water and sanitation.
  • Access to healthcare takes into account statistics such as how many doctors there are for every patient.
  • Risk of disease calculates the percentage of people with dangerous diseases such as AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis.
  • Access to education measures how many people attend primary school, secondary school and higher education.
  • Literacy rate is the percentage of adults who can read and write, eg this is 99% in the UK and 85% in Kenya. The rate in India is much lower at 60%.
  • Access to technology, includes statistics such as the percentage of people with access to phones, mobile phones, television and the internet.
  • Male/female equality compares statistics such as the literacy rates and employment between the sexes.
  • Government spending priorities compares health and education expenditure with military expenditure and paying off debts

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