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Social Development

Middle-class dynamics and the Arab Spring

Elena Ianchovichina's picture
Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egypt - Hang Dinh|

What do middle-class dynamics in the 2000s tell us about the Arab Spring events? In modern economies, the middle class not only bolsters demand for private goods and services, but also insists on good governance and public services, such as education, health, and infrastructure. Investments in these areas improve the capacity of the economy to grow not only more rapidly, but also sustainably and inclusively. Therefore, understanding how the middle class fares in the Arab world is of crucial importance.

Immigrant labor: Can it help Malaysia’s economic development?

Rafael Munoz Moreno's picture

Malaysia has been able to reach remarkable achievements over the past decades, including extreme poverty eradication and promotion of inclusive growth. It aims to reach a high-income nation status by 2020, which goes beyond merely reaching a per capita GDP threshold. As the 11th Malaysia Plan points out, the goal is to achieve a growth path that is sustainable over time, reflects greater productivity, and is inclusive. High-income status can be achieved if we ensure that future generations have access to all the resources, such as education and productive opportunities, necessary to realize their ambitions and if Malaysia’s economy is globally competitive and resource-sustainable.

Over the years, immigrants have played a crucial role in the economic development of Malaysia, with around 2.1 million immigrants registered and over 1 million undocumented as of 2013. Education levels among the Malaysian population have increased remarkably over the last two decades, and immigrant workers have become one of the primary sources of labor for low-skilled occupations, most commonly in labor-intensive sectors such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing. Economic studies show that a 10% net increase in low-skilled foreign workers could raise Malaysia’s GDP by 1.1% and create employment and increase wages for most Malaysians.

Early childhood education in rural areas: a key to unleash Indonesia’s potential

Rosfita Roesli's picture

The first five years have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out,” billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates once said, summing up the importance of early childhood education.

Early education is featured prominently in the World Bank’s Education Strategy 2020, which lays out a ten-year agenda focused on the goal of “learning for all.” With the tagline ‘Invest early, invest smartly, and invest for all,’ the strategy says that an investment in early education will support the development and growth of a nation, particularly for emerging economies such as Indonesia.

Measuring the economic potential of Indian districts

Mark Roberts's picture
Kanpur, which is one of the largest cities in the densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh, where per capita income is less than one-fifth its level in Delhi and the poverty rate is three times as high. How does its economic potential compare? Read below. Photo by: Sudip Mozumder/World Bank

As anyone who has travelled around the country will testify, India is marked by glaring spatial disparities in well-being. On the one hand, New Delhi is relatively prosperous, and if you visit the recently renovated Connaught Place, you will find not only a bustling outdoor market, but also designer shops, upmarket restaurants and a gleaming new metro station.

However, take the Prayagraj Express train east for seven hours and you will find yourself in Kanpur, which is one of the largest cities in the densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh, where per capita income is less than one-fifth its level in Delhi and the poverty rate is three times as high. 

Such large variations in well-being are a natural cause for concern among India’s policymakers and have generated intense interest in India’s spatial landscape of potential for economic development. Is it the case that less prosperous parts of the country lack the basic ingredients that can give rise to the high productivity that economists believe provides the key to well-being or is it the case that, while they may possess some of these ingredients, they are failing to make the most of them?

The Economic Potential Index

In an effort to provide some insights into both this and other key questions related to India’s spatial development, we have recently published a working paper that examines underlying variations in “economic potential” across Indian districts. 

Our analysis is based on a composite “Economic Potential Index” ( EPI)  that measures, in a single summary score, the extent to which a district possesses attributes that can be considered “universally” important to achieving a high local level of productivity, whether or not a high productivity level is currently actually observed. 

Improving access to agricultural land for the internally displaced

Ifeta Smajic's picture
Credit: International Crisis Group

An estimated 38 million people worldwide are forcefully displaced within the boundaries of their own country. In the majority of cases, internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in protracted displacement. For IDPs fleeing rural areas, loss of land, productive assets and sudden shift towards a non-agricultural lifestyle can be stagnating.

Georgia has some 270,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For them, sustainable livelihoods remain a challenge - 80% of the IDPs in Georgia are unemployed compared to a 15% unemployment rate nationwide (2013 figures).

Many Georgian IDPs would like to engage in agricultural production, but suffer from lack of access to sufficient land for pursuing agricultural livelihoods.

Terrorism makes stability more important to Arab youth than democracy

Christine Petré's picture

Young Arabs express the same concern over the rise of the Islamic State (IS) as young people do elsewhere, the annual Arab Youth Survey reveals. For the second year in a row, the “rise of” IS militants is perceived as the main problem facing the region, with four in every five young people interviewed saying they were more concerned about it than other problems. Its public appeal may have also decreased slightly, findings in the survey suggest.

Can North Africa leapfrog together in work and welfare?

Heba Elgazzar's picture
Dana Smilie

It was December 8, 2010, when I boarded a plane after a routine trip to Tunisia.  There was nothing out of the ordinary that would have provided a clue as to the dramatic upheaval to come.   The taxi drivers rarely spoke of politics, poverty was an untouchable topic of conversation, and YouTube was blocked.  However, over the course of that winter, uprisings erupted throughout Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and beyond that called for greater social justice.  Investment policies had privileged elites for too long. Social and labor policies had not been that effective at promoting inclusiveness.   Each country has since struggled to maintain political stability while addressing demands for improving work and welfare, with mixed results. 

Evidence for better-informed decisions and more inclusive policies

Simona Palummo's picture
 Arne Hoel/World Bank
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
Why do we need evidence?
The sustainable development agenda adopted by world leaders in September 2015 set a series of ambitious goals to end poverty, ensure equal economic growth, and tackle climate change by 2030. Rising inequalities, especially in developing countries, remind us that if we want to achieve these goals, we need more inclusive policies which consider the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.
Policymakers are constantly trying to identify better solutions to address global challenges, and that implies considering different policy options, and making a choice that can benefit each group of the population, which sometimes is extremely difficult. Even well-designed policies might have adverse impacts, particularly on the poor and the most socially excluded groups. That is why we need evidence to support better policy decisions, and that’s when Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) gets in the picture. What is exactly PSIA? The World Bank defines it as “an approach to assess the distributional and social impacts of policy reforms on the well-being of different groups of the population, in particular the poor and vulnerable.”