Social hardships of economic reform

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Excessive social costs of structural adjustment in debtor countries
Negative social impacts of economic restructuring
Neglect of human resource development in transition economies
Development with an inhuman face
Reduction in public expenditure on human resources in borrower nations
Negligent implementation of austerity measures in debtor countries
Delay in social benefits from reform in transition economies

It is generally recognized that the development of human resources both benefits from and contributes to the development process. Effective programmes to promote education and training, science and technology, and popular participation in economic activity, including the participation of women, are therefore key elements in development strategies. However, in many nations struggling with structural readjustment, austerity measures and general recessionary conditions have brought sharp declines in per capita incomes. Unemployment, especially of the young, continues to increase in debtor countries. Hunger and poverty in absolute numbers continue to rise. This forces more people back into subsistence agriculture, where they draw heavily on the natural resource base and thus degrade it. Austerity programmes inevitably include government cutbacks in both the staff and expenditure of new and unproven environmental agencies, undermining even the minimal efforts being made to bring ecological considerations into development planning.


[Developing countries] Debtor developing countries have to bear the burden of arduous structural adjustment with insufficient external support in order to benefit from the facilities offered by the International Monetary Fund in rescheduling their debts. The restructuring required by the IMF is designed to restimulate the economy. However the austerity measures associated with this process include reduction of government spending on: welfare, subsidized food and housing, wages and credit facilities. All these measures impose increased hardships on the poor. They redistribute wealth and opportunities to the wealthy who have capital to invest, in order to encourage them to generate more economic activity, notably exports. These measures tend to have a serious impact on social development and well-being, as education and health needs remain unfulfilled, especially amongst the most vulnerable groups. Human resource development is neglected because although economic growth is a necessary condition for attacking poverty, complementary policies focusing resources and programmes towards the more deprived tend to be given a low priority through force of circumstances. The possibility of addressing serious environmental concerns is also thwarted, thus affecting long-term development prospects. The persistence of acute poverty is another dimension of the problem. Vast poverty persists in Asia. The population living below a minimally acceptable level has increased in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the countries in Africa which have embarked on programmes of structural adjustment have been unable to sustain them in the face of their immediate social and economic consequences.

[Former socialist countries] For all former communist states, the transformation to a market economy is not a costless process and leads in its initial stages to unemployment and economic dislocation. It often happens, for example, that countries undertaking stabilization and structural adjustment programmes implement reforms in phases, either because differential phasing is built into their programmes or because some reforms are off schedule. They may, for example, implement some fiscal and monetary reforms (such as price control, tariff reform and devaluation) rapidly, whereas institutional ingredients of their programmes, particularly aspects of domestic deregulation, public enterprise reform and privatization, may not be in place for several years. In such circumstances there would be a lag before reforms would generate sufficient competition to create self-correcting market forces.

[Asian "tiger" economies] According to an 1998 ILO report, Asian societies will continue to suffer heavily as a result of inadequate policy responses to the 1997 financial crisis in the region. In the worst afflicted countries, millions will lose their jobs. The absence of meaningful social safety nets will make matters worse. It is warned that this combination of sharp and unexpected social pain on one hand and lack of collectively provided relief on the other is fertile ground for breeding unrest.



Related Problems:
Social corporatism
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
17.10.2021 – 07:18 CEST