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Home > Geography > International issues > Contrasts in development


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.

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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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