Postal services continue to be inadequate in most developing countries, partly because of the remoteness of many villages and the poor quality of road and rail networks; there are still many centres of population which have no post office. A surprising trend in recent decades has been the deterioration of postal services in certain developed countries as well. One reason is that the excellent services of the past depended on lavish use of manpower; another is that communication authorities now prefer to invest in improvement of the telephone system, which is profitable, rather than on maintenance of the postal system, which is not - hence the deterioration of postal services between persons, nations and continents. The faster the aeroplanes, it seems, the slower the post. This deterioration often causes serious disruptions in individual and commercial communication. There are also grounds for believing that the decline in the habit of letterwriting has been a factor in reducing the ability of many people to express themselves in a literate manner; this also represents a cultural loss.
Some 80% of letters are business related. In the UK unnecessary delays and industrial unrest costs commerce more than £4 billion a year.
Slow development in many countries of postal and telecommunication facilities and services is a real obstacle both to persons and societies. It is insufficiently recognized that these facilities and services are not only the outcome of economic growth, but also a precondition of overall development and even of democratic life. The unevenness in telecommunications expansion becomes an increasing obstacle to communication between developed and developing countries. Similarly, the rates of several services which have not yet fallen commensurately with costs, hamper their use by poorer consumers. This area of communication needs to be reconsidered in many countries, particularly in view of its social, economic and cultural significance.
As the world population and the proportion of literate individuals increase, the number of pieces of mail to be handled by national and international postal systems also increases. The absolute number of items is now so great, especially when direct mail is used extensively, that any weaknesses in the delivery system quickly become evident, particularly at seasonal peak periods. Delays may increase from days to weeks and in some serious cases (such as when the situation is aggravated by an industrial dispute), mail may simply be stored for long periods. In even more serious cases, and particularly in the case of printed matter, the mail may accumulate to such an extent that the authorities are obliged to destroy it.