Today, a lot of humans are working together to create a better and more prosperous future with an exceptional living condition for every individual. However, to achieve this goal, we need to understand the history of global living conditions. This is because it can help us to get a better perspective of what we have achieved and understand the things that we can accomplish in the coming years.
Therefore, let’s take a closer look at the short history of global living conditions and consider why we should know it. The focus will be on poverty, population, literacy, health, and freedom.
Measuring poverty can be difficult since several things have changed over the past years and the previous standard for measuring wealth and poverty may not be applicable today. Notably, in 1820, only a few percentages of the world had a higher standard of living. During this period, most individuals lived in what could have been regarded as abject poverty nowadays.
However, economic growth, industrialization, and increased productivity have taken a lot of individuals out of poverty. By the 1950s, 75% of the world populations were extremely poor while 44% were extremely poor in 1981. By the end of the 2010s, only 10% of the world was living in extreme poverty.
In 1800, only about 1 billion people were living in the world. And in just over 200 years, the number has increased to over 7 billion. Notably, the fertility rate in the pre-modern periods was estimated to be around 6 children per woman; hence, it was almost the same with what we have today. However, because of the high child and maternal mortality rate, poor health system, and other unfavorable conditions, more people were dying in that period than today. The demographic transition over some decades has shown that the mortality rate has reduced while the fertility rate has remained almost the same. Resultantly, the population is currently growing.
Of course, education and literacy also changed significantly over the last few centuries. While only 10% of people above 15 years could read and write in 1820, it grew to about 33.3% in 1930. However, the literacy level that we have today is estimated to be around 85%. Although we look forward to seeing an increased percentage in the next few decades, we cannot but acknowledge the obvious rise in the percentage of literate people in the last 200 years.
Along with the literacy level, the level of education has also risen significantly within the same period. Now, more people are choosing to acquire knowledge and education through different means. According to IIASA’s projection, by 2100, almost everyone in the world will achieve a certain level of formal education.
Without mincing words, we have made a great stride in the area of health. In 1800, only 57% of kids would be alive by their 5th birthday. However, the number is far higher today. All thanks to the improved healthcare system, better nutrition, improved housing and sanitation, better social life, and other factors. Today, the life expectancy of most countries around the world is increasing and more newborns are surviving as child mortality is now about 4.3%. Similarly, lots of health conditions have become more manageable than ever before.
Undoubtedly, there is a relationship between civil liberties, political freedom, and the various improvements in our living conditions. Now, many sensitive issues can be discussed in the public without any fears. Centuries ago, political discussions had led to arrest and even death. Women could hardly talk in public or be involved in some particular activities. Resultantly, their living conditions were severely affected. Nevertheless, several changes began in the middle of the 20th century. Today, numerous countries have embraced democracy and over 50% of individuals in the world live in a democratic country. It is worthwhile to note that over 1 billion individuals in China accounted for a lot of the people living in autocratic nations.
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Why It Matters That We Know It
Perhaps you are wondering why it is vital for us to understand the short history of global living conditions. There are tons of reasons to consider. Foremost, we need to note that the improvement in our living conditions only took place because we collaborated. Collaboration across different sectors, individuals, countries, and organizations was the reason behind the changes in global living conditions.
In addition, knowing the history of global living conditions should make us realize that we cannot be complacent about the need to improve the world around us. There are still a lot of things that are wrong with our world. Extreme poverty, poor health system, lack of freedom, and other issues are still the experiences of many people today. Therefore, we still have a long way to go.