Quality of life: India vs. China

Amartya Sen in The New York Review of Books:

The steadily rising rate of economic growth in India has recently been around 8 percent per year (it is expected to be 9 percent this year), and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China’s over 10 percent growth rate. Despite the evident excitement that this subject seems to cause in India and abroad, it is surely rather silly to be obsessed about India’s overtaking China in the rate of growth of GNP, while not comparing India with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Economic growth can, of course, be enormously helpful in advancing living standards and in battling poverty. But there is little cause for taking the growth of GNP to be an end in itself, rather than seeing it as an important means for achieving things we value.

It could, however, be asked why this distinction should make much difference, since economic growth does enhance our ability to improve living standards. The central point to appreciate here is that while economic growth is important for enhancing living conditions, its reach and impact depend greatly on what we do with the increased income. The relation between economic growth and the advancement of living standards depends on many factors, including economic and social inequality and, no less importantly, on what the government does with the public revenue that is generated by economic growth.

Some statistics about China and India, drawn mainly from the World Bank and the United Nations, are relevant here. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is 64.4 years. The infant mortality rate is fifty per thousand in India, compared with just seventeen in China; the mortality rate for children under five is sixty-six per thousand for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese; and the maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100,000 live births in India and thirty-eight in China. The mean years of schooling in India were estimated to be 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. China’s adult literacy rate is 94 percent, compared with India’s 74 percent according to the preliminary tables of the 2011 census. More:

1 Response to “Quality of life: India vs. China”


  • Firstly i respectfully disagree with Mr. Sen.

    Firstly, Poverty is a product of mind and not of money. The first flaw is the thought that more money should have an inverse effect on poverty is wrong. The only consequence of increase in economic growth would be increase in per capita income.

    Quality of life and poverty needs to be understood from a eastern philosophy. Please answer the following

    Is it better for a man to live healthy for 50 years or to live on life support systems for 80 years. It is a law of the nature that “only the fittest can survive”. There is also a natural balance that regulates Fertility and Mortality.

    Economics in terms of numbers can never explain quality of life. Was gautham buddha’s quality of life better or worser after he gave up his throne. The biggest scam to have surfaced on the earth now if the “HEALTH SCAM” with hospitals charging everincreasing amounts for keeping the dead man alive. Is this the quality of life that you want?

    For me living with nature is the best quality of life. Any deviation is a compromise!

    By the way, the chinese may have all the money and facilities provided by their government, but they are not allowed to follow the philosophy of their heart. That is poverty. wait for 100 years to see the effect of such stunted growth.

    Birth and Death is natural and nobody can stop it. But freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to follow you heart is the biggest happiness that per capita income cannot give.

    Thanks!

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