Journal Issue

World Economy in Transition: Improved social indicators in the developing world, 1965–88

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
January 1991
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The challenge of development lies, in the broadest sense, in improving the quality of life. This calls for not only higher incomes but also greater access to education and higher standards of health and nutrition. Better health and nutrition bring substantial economic benefits, releasing resources that can be used for other development goals. Health and nutrition also have long-run effects on productivity and output, because they influence a child’s ability and motivation to learn. Although progress in education is important as an end in itself, it, too, fuels faster economic growth.

Development also almost always involves a shift in the sectoral composition of output. That is, agriculture’s share in GDP—which is typically high in the early stages—begins to decline and that of the manufacturing or services industry begins to increase.

Infant mortality

Infant mortality rate–Number of deaths of infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births in a given year. The data are a combination of observed values and interpolated and projected estimates.

Calorie supply per capita

Daily calorie supply–Computed from energy equivalent of net food supplies in a country, per capita, per day. Available supplies comprise domestic production, imports less exports, and changes in stock. Net supplies exclude animal feed, seeds for use in agriculture, and food lost in processing.

During the past three decades, the developing world has made considerable economic and social progress in the areas mentioned above. Data obtained from a World Bank publication, The Social Indicators of Development, 1990, indicate significant improvements in all regions with regard to health and education. This is reflected in a decline in infant mortality rates and an increase in primary school enrollment. Not all regions achieved the same successes with respect to the calorie supply per capita, however, with Sub-Saharan Africa sadly lagging behind. The share of the agricultural sector in GDP declined in all regions, suggesting an improvement in economic and industrial development.

Primary school enrollment rate

Primary school enrollment–Gross enrollment of all ages at primary level as a percentage of school-age children as defined by each country and reported to Unesco. Although many countries consider primary school age to be 6–11 years, others use different age groups. Gross enrollment may be reported in excess of 100 percent if some pupils are younger or older than the country’s standard range of primary school age.

Share of agriculture in GDP

Share of agriculture in GDP–Covers forestry, hunting, and fishing, as well as agriculture. In developing countries with a high level of subsistence farming, much of agricultural production is either not exchanged, or not exchanged for money. This increases the difficulty of measuring the contribution of agriculture to GDP and reduces the reliability and comparability of such numbers.

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