Recent years have seen a further increase in unemployment and destitution, a general worsening in the basic conditions of life, including an absolute impoverishment of the mass of the population in many if not most developing countries as a result of stagnation and decline in use of value-oriented agricultural and industrial production, the outflow of surplus, the progressive displacement of the subsistence economy, and the destruction of the environment. In industrialized countries almost all social and environmental problems are getting worse: crime, substance abuse, stress diseases, homelessness, depression, traffic noise and congestion, pollution, pace, urban blight and poverty.
The precipitous decline in living standards in many developing countries, especially in Africa and Latin America results in social unrest and threatens democratic political institutions. This decline is the result of the drop in commodity prices, deteriorating terms of trade, barriers in industrialized countries to the import of manufactured goods from developing countries and the onerous external debts of capital which acts as severe constraints on economic and social development. Malnutrition, already a serious problem in the 1970s, has risen in the wake of food shortages and near famine conditions.
The rate of growth in gross national product per capita in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1988 was 1.5 percentage points lower than in 1987. During the seven years ending in 1988, there had been a net transfer of US$ 20 billion to US$ 30 billion from countries in the region.
Despite the accelerated economic growth between 1958 and 1980, people in the USA reported feeling significantly less well-off in 1980 that they had 22 years before. The rise in per capita consumption in the USA between 1970 and 1990 was 45%; the decrease in the quality of life as measured by the Index of Social Health was 51%.
2. Irrespective of the country, the world-wide recent economic slow-down has meant an absolute decline in the standard of living. Real incomes at the household and family level have declined sharply within the general fall in per capita incomes. For some it has been an abrupt interruption in what they had long experienced and taken for granted: steady living-standard improvement; but for all, in a convergence of moods not known to the experience of present generations, and in countries previously separated by differing outlooks and economic achievement, there has arisen an apprehensiveness, and in some cases, a sense of powerlessness concerning a future in which all the gains in living-standard are threatened.
2. People in the State of Kerala in India have quality of life standards nearly equal to the average person in the USA, on a fraction of the income. The following are comparative indicators for quality of life and resource consumption (USA and Canada : Kerala): infant mortality rate 8 : 17; life expectancy, male 72 : 70; life expectancy, female 79 : 74; literacy, male 99% : 94%; literacy female 99% : 86%; total fertility rate 2.0 : 2.0; GNP per capita $22,430 : $365.