To What Extent Has Economic Growth Improved Quality of Life?


  • Author Armaan Ali Khan
  • Published January 21, 2024
  • Word count 1,135

Following the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution in the early 18th Century, nations began industrializing, and pioneering arrays of ideologies which led to the formation of early economies. As urbanization transpired, and innovations materialized, wealth began to form in countries funded by the sale of goods and services. Soon, an upsurge of innovation deemed certain jobs unessential, and suddenly, a modernized world was created. With lives radically altered, it is arguable whether these developments proved beneficial to the quality of life for civilization. The quality of life can be defined as the standard of living experienced by a society. To determine this, data will be sampled from Singapore, the United States of America (USA), and Uganda. Although economic growth firmly increased the quality of life for citizens through life expectancy and education, a reduction in sustainability towards the environment resulted in adverse effects.

Those who support the growth of economies claim a positive shift in quality of life from improved healthcare, resulting in a rise in life expectancy. Generally speaking, longer lives often translate into the increased well-being of individuals. This is evident when analyzing the nation of Singapore, which had a 53,000% increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the years 1960 to 2020 (Singapore GDP). This consequently resulted in the rise of life expectancy from 54.94 to 83.80 years in the same period. An increase in life expectancy in Singapore is beneficial to citizens as they receive additional time following their retirement, where they can engage in leisure activities and spend time with their families. An increase of 30 years to live boosts the well-being of Singaporeans and improves their quality of life. Additional data can be sampled from Uganda to strengthen the argument. From the years 1960 to 2020, the GDP of Uganda has experienced growth of 8,200%, translating to an increase in life expectancy from 44.36 to 62.97 years (Uganda GDP). Uganda has made monumental strides in general healthcare to accommodate this rise in Life Expectancy. The administration of vaccines at birth to 72% of newborns has contributed to decreased disease (Wilson), which allows Ugandans to live a risk-free life. The lowered risk of disease contraction and possible death improves the healthcare of Ugandans, as they have more time remaining in their life to engage in their desired passions. Lastly, the USA has seen a GDP growth of 3,800% from 1960 to 2020 (US GDP), which resulted in an eight-year growth in life expectancy. The economic rise assisted in developing new healthcare facilities and introducing new technology such as Immunotherapy, which effectively terminates cancer cells, leading to recovery from illness (Immunotherapy Cancer). These advances in healthcare resulted in an improvement in life expectancy and will certainly increase the well-being of American citizens. This is relevant, as due to the positive shift in life expectancy, it can be claimed that citizens in Singapore, Uganda, and the USA have experienced growth in their Quality of Life through a development in Healthcare.

Furthermore, those supporting the growth of economies claim advances in education, due to increased literacy rates, and average years in school, resulting in an increased quality of life. This can be examined when analysing Singapore, which experienced rise in literacy-rates from 82.91% to 97.34% between 1980 to 2020 (Singapore Literacy). Furthermore, an increase of an average of 2.9 years in school by students from 2004 to 2017 can display improved education. (Glavin). This development in education can be attributed to an increased quality of life, as sufficient schooling can allow for more job opportunities, providing income. Generally, a stronger education translates to an increased quality of life, as a better future is guaranteed. The increased literacy and schooling rates in Singapore have led to an increased quality of life. Further examples can be extracted from Uganda, which has experienced an increased literacy-rate of 19.5% from 1990 to 2020 (Uganda Literacy Rate). Additionally, an increase of an average 4 years in schooling has taken place since 1990 to 2019 (Human Development Reports).This improved education can be explained by new programs funded by the government, such as the Universal Primary Education initiative, which strives to include free primary education for all eligible students (Education in Uganda). The available opportunity for education in Uganda has consequently increased literacy-rates, allowing for Ugandans to expand job opportunities from solely agricultural, to higher tier occupations. Lastly, evidence extracted from the United States reveals a 9% increase in literacy-rates from 1960, to 2020 and an increase of 1.1 years of schooling in the last 29 years.(USA Literacy Rates). This can be accredited to the accessibility of educational facilities to American students by the government, and the allocation of free schooling. The growing economy can be accredited for greater education, and has improved the quality of life for citizens by opening doors to better occupations. This evidence is relevant as it can be claimed that the vast improvement of education in Singapore, Uganda and the USA due to the growth of the economy, has improved the quality of life for citizens.

Lastly, those opposing economic growth believe the development of the economy produced a rise in Carbon Dioxide emissions, adversely affecting quality of life. This is evident when examining Singapore, where an increase of 45,967 kilotones of Carbon emissions from 1960 to 2020 can be attributed to the growth of the economy during the same time period (Singapore Carbon). Increased carbon emissions negatively affected quality of life in Singapore by introducing air pollution, resulting in school closures in 2015. An Air Quality Index reading of 314 towered over the ‘safe’ level of 60, indicating hazardous conditions (Singapore Air Pollution). This reduced quality of life, as it implemented health risks to citizens, and disrupted lives by halting routine activities. The nation of Uganda can additionally portray this. A rise of 5,709 killtones of carbon emissions from 1960 to 2020 was reported, stimulated by economic growth (Uganda Carbon). This increase hindered the quality of life for Ugandans as annually, an estimated 30,000 civilians are killed due to illnesses triggered by Air Pollution (Xinhua). This development decreases quality of life, as how can one maintain well-being when in constant threat of Air-Pollution illnesses? Lastly, the USA experienced an increase of 2.1 million kilotones during the same time period (US Carbon). Recent mass flooding in New York attributed to climate change due to rising temperatures disrupted millions, and caused immense structural damage. This definitely impacts the quality of life for citizens due to the unsettlement, and distortion caused by this. The increase in carbon emissions is relevant, as it can be claimed that its causation by the growth of economies negatively affects the quality of life.

To conclude, although economic growth possesses aspects which can positively affect the quality of life of society, negative impacts may also be experienced. Following the analysis of Singapore, Uganda, and the USA, an improvement in Healthcare and Education following an economic uprise benefited the quality of life for citizens. However, an increase in carbon emissions resulted in a mass decrease in quality of life due to disruptions posed to society.

Hello! My name is Armaan Ali Khan, and I am a high school student from the International School of Bangkok. I study Economics and Political Science, and hope to further my education in this field in college.

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