Over the past three decades, China’s unprecedented pace of urbanization has allowed more than 260 million migrants to move from agriculture to more productive activities. This has helped 500 million people escape poverty and for China to grow at an average 10 percent a year for three consecutive decades. At the same time, between 2000 and 2014, weather-related disasters caused more than RMB 4.645 trillion ($749 billion) in damages.
There is strong evidence that climate change is altering the profile of hazards. The observed frequency and severity of extremely heavy rain storms since the 1950s in China have significantly increased and future climate scenarios suggest that interannual variability in rainfall may increase further, aggravating the risk of flooding and as well as severe lack of water.
Over the past two decades, the city of Lishui in Zhejiang Province of China suffered from devastating floods, landslides, as well as heat waves. Today, the over 2 million people of Lishui have a lot to be proud of. Their city is recognized as China’s “top ecological, picturesque paradise for healthy life and home of longevity”. This is the result of close attention from city and provincial officials in understanding the root causes of the problems caused by the changing climate. This has been followed by inclusive planning, design and implementation of technically sound projects that are in harmony with the rivers flowing through the city in concert with the surrounding hilly terrain’s natural and city-wide storm water drainage systems.
In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in the EAP region put themselves on a path that focused on growth driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.
High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity and growth without stoking inequality.
I am a policy wonk. I have spent my entire professional career (first in the Government of India and then in the World Bank) watching up close how policy choices are made, how political processes play out and on how institutions and people form coalitions for or against any change based on their incentives. I have also worked in China for close to 8 years, and like so many before me, have fallen in love with the beautiful country, its people and civilizational depth and continue to be amazed at the sheer pace, scale and energy of the massive changes the country has undergone, lifting more than 800 million of its citizens out of poverty.
“Women hold up half of the sky,” Chairman Mao said. So when it comes to development, it is important to listen to women – who generally make up half of our beneficiaries – and understand their views, preferences and needs. As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, I’m sharing some of my experience helping to increase gender awareness in World Bank-supported projects in China.
When we designed activities for the Ningbo Sustainable Urbanization Project, we carried out consultations with groups of men and women to make sure the proposed public transport system benefitted both equally. It was interesting to find that most men wanted wider roads with higher speed, while women cared more about the location of bus stops and adequate lighting on the bus.. Thanks to these consultations, we adjusted the locations of bus stops to be closer to the entrance of residential communities and reduce walking distance for bus riders. In response to the light request, we made sure that new buses purchased for the project had sufficient lighting for night use.
Transport infrastructure planning and design take into consideration men and women’s differences in travel needs, patterns, and behaviors to promote gender equality. But do these differences also affect how they use intelligent transport systems (ITS)?
When I searched online for “IC card” (integrated circuit card used to pay transit fares), I found the pictures below (see Figure 1). They illustrate one of the differences between men and women: men tend to travel carrying very little while women tend to carry one or several bags. When women get on a bus, they need to locate the card in their bag which may take some time and hold up the queue behind them. To save time, a simple modification to the IC card reader could facilitate the process by not requiring them to take it out of their purse for swiping.