The patterns outlined on the scatter graphs show that there are huge issues that the world needs to deal with in terms of standard of living and quality of life.
Indeed, income variations across the world can have huge impacts upon the quality of life a person has. There are a massive range of things that are directly impacted by a person or a countries ability to pay for them. These things include access to clean water, education, access to health care, access to medicines, adequate shelter, security, electricity and many more.
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. Many of the factors affecting it are tied in with the United Nations Universal human rights such as the right to freedom, the right to marry and freedom from discrimination. None of these things are ECONOMIC.
In contrast, standard of living is based primarily on income and what that level of income will allow a person to buy in the way of necessities and luxury goods. Standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, material goods and necessities available to a certain group of people in a certain geographic area.
One more thing to consider is the different perceptions/views of acceptable quality of life in different parts of the world. What may be totally unacceptable in richer nations such as living in shanty towns might be the norm in poorer nations. Imagine people living in shanty towns in Mumbai, those that have been improved and stabilized over the years might offer a reasonable quality of life compared to the pavement dwellers of that city, but would be totally unacceptable for most Western people to consider living in!
There are problems with UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT that directly affect people’s quality of life and standard of living. These are known as INEQUALITIES - extreme differences between poverty and wealth, as well as in peoples' wellbeing and access to things like jobs, housing and education.
There are local inequalities and there are inequalities at a global level. Some people have the ability to buy bottled water; others have to drink dirty water that is potentially unsafe. Some people drive a car to work and some have only ever walked.
There can also be big gaps WITHIN countries.
In the UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) of 2005 only 9 countries (4% of the world's population) have reduced the wealth gap between rich and poor, whilst 80% of the world’s population recorded an increase in wealth inequality.
The report states that:
'The richest 50 individuals in the world have a combined income greater than that of the poorest 416 million. The 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day 40% of the world’s population receive only 5% of global income, while 54% of global income goes to the richest 10% of the world’s population.' (From Share the World's Resources)
The consequences of uneven development include;
1. More International Migration, as people move globally from areas that have very little to wealthier more developed areas
2. Lack of social opportunity – children in poorer areas get stuck in poverty, with little or no chance of working their way out
3. Countries with high inequality often have lower growth in the wealth of the country (IMF)
4. Inequality can lead to political instability – civil wars and riots are more likely when the rich are far richer than the poor.
5. It forces billions of people to live in Poverty, without access to safe water, education, inadequate food supplies and unsafe shelters.
EXAMPLE – Dealing with the consequences of inequality – CaFOD’s action with Hirbo in Ethiopia
Hirbo Guyo, 31, and his wife Nanne Hiddo, 28, live in Menese village, Ethiopia with their son and two daughters.
Hirbo was born to farming parents who gave him half a hectare of land when he married Nanne Hiddo in 2004. Hirbo depended entirely on farming. He grows broad beans, as well as a crop called ‘teff’ which he sells to buy cheaper food. But Hirbo struggled to feed his family.
“I was not able to feed my family three times a day. I had to save and eat little and sometimes skip meals. We were not eating enough.”
Agri Service Ethiopia, a partner organisation working in Ethiopia with the Catholic charities CAFOD, Trócaire and SCIAF, gave skills training to Hirbo and other local farmers to help them find additional sources of income rather than depending entirely on farming.
Hirbo chose to learn the skills of a blacksmith: “I chose blacksmithing because I wanted to help my community with making farm tools like ploughs. I was aware of the problem of not having someone who could fix farm tools in my community.” Within 4 months of his training he had already made and sharpened ten ploughs for local famers.
If Hirbo still relied on farming alone, his entire annual income would be 8,000 Birr. His blacksmithing brings him about 30,000 Birr a year: “My regular income is 2,500 Birr a month… With the money I buy food and clothes and pay for other family expenses.”
“I was in a desperate situation. I thought I was going to live under a thatched roof my entire life. My family was always stressed when we were running out of food. I was not even sure I could harvest a crop on my farm every year. I used to take extra work to buy food for my family. Now I make enough money to buy enough food for my family. I have a plan to construct a metal roofed house in a year’s time. My life has completely transformed.”