In recent years, development economists have stopped concentrating on national income only. They have started emphasizing the quality and strategy of development. As a part of the quality of development, they have advocated that direct attention should be given to the quality of life. Quality of life refers to the degree of the economic well-being of people.
These development economists have emphasized the need for shifting the focus of economic development. In their view, economic development is not an end in itself. They argue that human beings should be the end of economic development rather than being mere means. Since human beings are the end of economic development, the ultimate objective of economic development should be the quality of life or well-being of the people. Accordingly, economic development should be judged by how it enriches human life.
Economic development in third-world countries in the recent past has shown that there is no automatic link between economic development and quality of life. In many countries, the quality of life of a very large number of people deteriorated in the course of their development. This shows that growth/development is not the answer for everyone. The Human Development Report (1996) echoes this view when it says growth should be judged not by the abundance of commodities it provides but by how much it enriches people’s lives.
Thus many development economists and policy-makers have called for a basic reconsideration of the meaning of development and shifts in the development policy. They have advocated that direct attention should be given to the achievement of a better quality of life. As part of this direct approach, they advocated a new approach known as the Basic Needs Approach. This approach concerns that all people should be provided with the basic means of well-being, food, health, and education. The important proposition of the Basic Needs Approach is that the principal purpose of development is to promote human well-being, especially of the poor.
The quality of life of the people is determined by many factors such as income, consumption, health, education, environment, etc. National income is only one of the determinants and that too subject to many limitations. While considering the quality of life as the objective of economic development, development economists go beyond the basic means of well-being. They consider many other determinants of quality of life.
Components of a Better Quality of Life
The important components of a better quality of life are listed below;
- To provide better nourishment by providing people with more and better food,
- Provide adequate clothing and housing,
- To ensure for all the people essential public services like pure drinking water, sanitation, health, and medical services,
- Provide better education,
- To ensure more and better employment particularly for the low-end poverty groups,
- Overcome poverty,
- To reduce inequality by distributing the benefits of economic equality
These are the essential objects to be achieved for attaining a better quality of life. A country may be successful in promoting some of them, if not all. A successful country is able to convert an increase in income in the course of economic development into progress along these dimensions of quality of life.
At every stage, policy-makers should ask questions such as; is the country able to meet the life-sustaining needs of the people? What is the improvement in education and medical facilities? Are the living conditions of the masses improving? What has been happening to the reduction of poverty? Has growth been creating more employment? Who is benefiting from economic development? Have the inequalities decreased along with economic development?
Positive answers to these questions would determine whether the quality of life has been improving in the course of economic development. It is only then we can confidently say that economic development is moving in the direction of improvement of the quality of life. Only then we can say that we have been able to achieve the desired economic development and that the quality of development is appropriate.
Economic development has been an evolving concept. The concept of economic development was initially related to an increase in real per capita income. Subsequently, the concept of economics was defined so as to emphasize overcoming poverty, reducing unemployment, diminishing inequality, and improving the quality of life. In recent years, development economists and policymakers have started talking about sustainable economic development as opposed to simple economic development. The concept of sustainable development was introduced by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987.