Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Comparative exercise

Because GDP per capita and GDP growth numbers are so easily accessible (CIA World Factbook, for example), it's tempting to rely on them to make comparisons between countries.

According to The Economist, the United Nations Development Programme suggests we look at more than just economics.

UNDP offers a good argument that the Human Development Index (HDI) does a better job of evaluating and allowing for comparisons.

See if the results your students get when comparing the GDP figures with the HDI figures support the UNDP contentions.

“Rise of South” transforming global power balance, says 2013 Human Development Report
The rise of the South is radically reshaping the world of the 21st century, with developing nations driving economic growth, lifting hundreds of millions of people from poverty, and propelling billions more into a new global middle class, says the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) 2013 Human Development Report…

This phenomenon goes well beyond the so-called BRICs, middle income countries often represented by Brazil, Russia, India and China, the 2013 Report stresses. The Report shows that more than 40 developing countries have made greater human development gains in recent decades than would have been predicted. These achievements, it says, are largely attributable to sustained investment in education, health care and social programmes, and open engagement with an increasingly interconnected world…

The 2013 Report first identifies more than 40 developing countries with human development gains that significantly outpaced global norms in recent decades. It then looks in greater detail at 18 of those countries, ranging from the biggest high-achievers—beginning with China—to many smaller successful countries in the South, such as Chile, Ghana and Thailand.

While these countries differed greatly in their histories, political systems, economic profiles and development priorities, they share some key characteristics. Most were proactive “developmental states” that sought to take strategic advantage of opportunities offered by world trade. They also invested heavily in human capital through health and education programs and other essential social services…

The forecast suggests that faster educational progress also substantially reduces child mortality, the direct result of improvements in girls’ opportunities for continued education and the well-documented benefits for children of having a well-educated mother…

Educating women through adulthood is the closest thing to a “silver bullet” formula for accelerating human development, the Report’s research shows.

Severe poverty remains a major problem throughout much of the developing world, the Report stresses. An estimated 1.57 billion people, or more than 30 percent of the population of the 104 countries studied for the Report, live in what it terms “multidimensional” poverty…

The Report warns that nonresponsive political structures can prompt civil unrest, especially if economic opportunity does not keep pace with educational advancement… These social tensions are also acutely felt currently in many developed countries, the report notes, where austerity policies and declining growth impose hardships on millions…

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