I joined Facebook in 2007. For years, I would boast that I got all my news from Facebook and the Daily Show, an American satirical television program, which delivers fake news reports. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but perhaps it was inevitable. I certainly didn't feel connected to news sources, or government press services, so Facebook and fake news somehow felt more authentic and trustworthy than the traditional means of accessing information.
In India, for example, almost 400 people are killed on roads every day. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet plane crash but, unfortunately, road deaths don’t make headlines quite the same way. And there is no shortage of alarming examples regarding India’s road safety challenges, including:
- India’s national highways are especially dangerous, accounting for only two percent of the country’s total road network, but more than 30 percent of road-related deaths and injuries.
- Pedestrian fatalities are a large proportion of accidents. In New Delhi, for example, pedestrian fatalities account for 45-51 percent of all road traffic deaths.
- Road traffic crashes in India cost the country an estimated annual GDP loss of three percent. (WHO estimates)
Despite rapid economic growth in South Asia, the majority of workers in the region have low-paid jobs in the informal economy, where productivity is sub-standard and social protection is lacking. In fact, a new report on labor in India – by the Institute for Human Development (IHD) in New Delhi – estimates that 276 million workers live below a poverty line of $2 per day . What can be done to create better jobs in the region? Preet Rustagi, a Professor at the IHD, argues that the key will be improving the quality of human capabilities, notably through better education and skills training.
I’m on my way to the 7th South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) in New Delhi, India. The summit* brings together leading analysts, academics, policymakers, the private sector and civil society from across the region and beyond, who meet to suggest solutions to South Asia’s economic issues and learn from each other’s experiences.
This year’s SAES takes place at a very opportune time. Regional cooperation momentum has been on an upswing. The theme of the summit, “Towards South Asian Economic Union” captures the renewed optimism of moving forward on the regional agenda and generating shared prosperity. Apart from that, the SAES is held between November 7 – 8, only two weeks before the 18th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit, where heads of state from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka will meet in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Taking a break from the How Change Happens book this week to head off to Harvard for a Matt Andrews/ODI seminar on ‘Doing Development Differently’ + a day at Oxfam America on Friday. Will report back, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished the draft chapter on the power of social norms, and how they change (and can be changed). ODI provides an absolute gold mine of a crib sheet on this in the shape of Drivers of Change in Gender norms: An annotated bibliography, by Rachel Marcus and Ella Page with Rebecca Calder and Catriona Foley.
Here’s one of the excerpts that caught my eye:
Jensen, R. and Oster, E. (2007) ‘The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women’s Status in India’. Working Paper 13305. Cambridge, MA: NBER
The inequality between rural and urban locations is one of the largest contributing factors to the overall economic inequality in a country. Yet there are a lot of unanswered questions about the sources of this inequality, such as how structural transformation – namely the movement of labor from low productivity sectors like agriculture to higher productivity sectors like industry – affects the rural-urban divide. To shed light on this question, Amartya Lahiri (University of British Columbia) and I recently wrote a paper on what occurred in India between 1983 and 2010. Our findings highlight that over the past three decades, there has been a rapid wage convergence between urban and rural areas – with the fast growth of the urban labor force playing a major role.