The Swedish academic Hans Rosling he noticed the rise of a worrying trend: although the world is becoming a better place, people from countries with strong economies think the opposite. No wonder, since the news speaks of natural catastrophes, terrorist attacks, wars and famines more than other issues.
Each day, around 200,000 people worldwide exceed the barrier of two dollars per day and more than 300,000 get access to electricity and clean water for the first time. The positive stories of people from countries with depressed economies do not generate interest or audience. However, as Rosling points out in his book Factfulness, it is important to put the bad news in perspective.
Although it is true that during the last decades globalization has exerted a downward pressure on the salaries of the middle class In developed economies, it has also helped overcome the poverty barrier to hundreds of millions of people, especially in Southeast Asia.
The recent rise of populism in Western countries, with Trump and Brexit as the spearhead and the elections in Hungary and Italy as reliable examples, produces a great concern for social welfare throughout the world. Globalization is the only way to ensure that economic prosperity is shared among all the countries, instead of enjoying it only certain advanced nations.
Some people are of the opinion that any past time was better, but there is a fact that does not admit discussion: until recently, and throughout almost the entire history of humanity, a significant part of the world population has lived in conditions painful. The following seven graphs show that the world has become a better place than it was only a few decades ago.
1: Life expectancy continues to increase
Global life expectancy and by areas of the world from 1770 to the present.
During the Industrial Revolution, life expectancy in European countries did not exceed 35 years. This does not mean that the majority of the population died between the ages of 30 and 40, but that the very high rates of infant mortality and the death of women during childbirth drove the average down. Diseases common at the time and eradicated today, such as smallpox or plague, were also a big problem.
2: Infant mortality continues to decline
Infant mortality rate. The proportion of children born alive who die before the age of five is shown.
More than a century ago, the infant mortality rate still exceeded 10% even in countries with a high level of income, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Thanks to modern medicine and greater safety and public health, this figure has been reduced in rich countries until almost eliminated.
In addition, developing economies such as India and Brazil have much lower infant mortality rates than those of the economies developed today a century ago, with a very similar level of income.
3. Birth rates are falling
Birth rate 2015. The "Total fertility rate" is shown, which measures the number of children a woman would give birth if she lived to the end of her childbearing years and had children according to the specific fertility rates of each age in the year in question. .
Although many people are concerned about the growth of the world population, the reality is that the birth rates have declined considerably. The long-term estimates of the United Nations They indicate that the world population will stabilize at around 11 billion by the end of this century.
In addition, as can be seen in the graph, many developing countries, such as Brazil, China and several African nations, have chosen to follow a low birth policy. For many advanced economies this transition took almost 100 years (beginning with the Industrial Revolution), but others have achieved it in two or three decades.
4. GDP growth has accelerated in developed countries
GDP per capita. Real GDP per capita is measured in US dollars. adjusted for inflation at 2011 prices.
The United States and Western Europe, technological leaders, have grown around 2% per year for the last 150 years, which means that income levels approximately double every 36 years.
Taking into account that there have been numerous ups and downs during long periods of time, such as the Great Depression or the recent Great Recession, that the rate of growth remains constant in the long term is almost miraculous. Countries with a low level of income, such as China or India, have been growing at a higher rate during the last decades; so much so that they inexorably approach the western countries. A growth rate of 10% over a prolonged period means that revenues will double approximately every seven years. That prosperity is shared by everyone can only be good news.
5. Overall income inequality has been reduced
Although the inequality within countries has increased as a result of globalization, global inequality has been kept down for several decades as a result of the development of countries like China and India, in which hundreds of millions of people have improved their standard of living. In fact, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution about half of the world's population can be considered middle class.
6. Democracy extends
Percentage of citizens of the world who live under different political regimes. The Polity IV Index locates the type of political regime in each country in a range between -10 (full autocracy) and +10 (full democracy). The regimes that remain in the central part of this range are called anocracies.
Throughout the history of mankind, people have lived under undemocratic oppressive regimes. Today, around half of the world's population lives in democracy. Of those who still live in autocracies, 90% do so in China. However, the Asian country is turning the tide, so there is reason to believe that sustained economic development will lead to its democratization (according to the Theory of Modernization).
7. There are fewer and fewer conflicts
The history of the world is the history of its division by conflicts. In fact, at least two of the great powers have been at war for more than 50% of the time since the year 1500, approximately.
While the first half of the twentieth century was especially bloody, with two world wars with little respite, the later period could be described as peaceful. For the first time in all history there have been no wars or conflicts in Western Europe in three generations, and international organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations have been fundamental pieces to bring stability to the world.