Quality Of Life in the Context of Economic Development: African Experience

Abstract: The primary objectives of the paper are to review and assess the debate on concept and measurement of quality of life and explain the relationship between it and economic growth. The debate in the literature is that quality of life has two dimensions – objective and subjective. The objective dimension is measured by quantifiable indicators which reflect material conditions of external environments based primarily on economic growth, while the subjective dimension covers personal and psychological perceptions regarding well-being and life satisfaction. Recent conceptualization of quality of life has downgraded income’s pride of place. Two major initiatives which subsequently responded to this challenge are the Human Development Index (HDI) which emphasize people and their capabilities as the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country instead of economic growth, and the World Happiness Report (WHR) which views happiness as the ultimate outcome of a high quality of life. However, neither of these two initiatives eliminated economic growth or income from the picture. Essentially, both regard income as a necessary but not sufficient condition for achieving high levels of human development (in the case of HDI) or for ensuring high levels of happiness and life satisfaction (in the case of WHR). While HDI and WHR overlap significantly in terms of variables used to measure economic and social performance assessments of countries and the differences between them, they do not generally produce the same results. To fully understand why and under what circumstances HDI and WHR ranks may differ sharply, especially in the context of African countries, more research is needed. The effective and fruitful use of both mechanisms rest squarely on this.

JEL classification: I31, O15
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