Development is a process that refers to improving economic performance, living standards and other factors that affect the well-being of the people living in a country.
The United Nations defines human development as, “the expansion of people’s freedoms and capabilities to lead lives that they value and have reason to value. It is about expanding choices. Freedoms and capabilities are a more expansive notion than basic needs.”
It is worth noting that this definition may not be directly comparable to well-being or happiness, which can depend on social relationships and a variety of other factors.
The Human Development Index is a widely recognized tool for measuring progress. Most developing countries have made great progress over the past several decades. The average index score increased by 41 percent overall and 60 percent for the lower quartile of developing countries since 1970.
The Human Development Report classifies countries into four levels of development: very high, high, medium and low human development. It evenly assigns one quarter of all countries in the index to each of the four levels. It is debatable whether a better approach to classifying countries might consist of assigning a range of scores to each level.
Life on Less than $1-$2 Per Day
Far too many people have not shared enough in the progress to date. Some 2.47 billion people or 43 percent of the total population of the developing world lived on less than $2 per day in 2008 according to World Bank calculations from February, 2012. Of those, nearly a third or 801 million people struggled to survive on not even $1 per day.
The United Nations Development Programme has refined its approach to measuring human development by adjusting for several dimensions of inequality.
Some organizations have devised other approaches to evaluating the progress of developed and developing countries. The Legatum Prosperity Index scores and ranks countries’ prosperity based on eight “foundations for national development,” including: economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom and social capital. The most recent version of the Prosperity Index covers 110 countries, whereas the Human Development Index evaluates development indicators for 187 countries.
The issue of sustainability adds another dimension to the concept of development. The United Nations Development Programme defines sustainable human development as, “the expansion of substantive freedoms of people today while making reasonable efforts to avoid seriously compromising those of future generations.” Environmental conservation is a critical component of sustainability.