Seven Charts That Show the World Is Actually Becoming a Better Place

CURRENT AFFAIRS, 14 Jan 2019

Julius Probst – The Conversation

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4 Jan 2019 – Swedish academic Hans Rosling has identified a worrying trend: not only do many people across advanced economies have no idea that the world is becoming a much better place, but they actually even think the opposite. This is no wonder, when the news focuses on reporting catastrophes, terrorist attacks, wars and famines.

Who wants to hear about the fact that every day some 200,000 people around the world are lifted above the US$2-a-day poverty line? Or that more than 300,000 people a day get access to electricity and clean water for the first time every day? These stories of people in low-income countries simply doesn’t make for exciting news coverage. But, as Rosling pointed out in his book Factfulness, it’s important to put all the bad news in perspective.

While it is true that globalisation has put some downward pressure on middle-class wages in advanced economies in recent decades, it has also helped lift hundreds of millions of people above the global poverty line – a development that has mostly occurred in South-East Asia.

The recent rise of populism that has swept across Western countries, with Trump, Brexit, and the election of populists in Hungary and Italy, among various other factors, is thus of great concern if we care about global welfare. Globalisation is the only way forward to ensure that economic prosperity is shared among all countries and not only a select few advanced economies.

While some people glorify the past, one of the big facts of economic history is that until quite recently a significant part of the world population has lived under quite miserable conditions – and this has been true throughout most of human history. The following seven charts show how the world has become a much better place compared to just a few decades ago.

1: Life expectancy continues to rise

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