|The new global middle class in the 21st century|
The New Global Middle Class
Since the beginning of the 21st century there has been a massive expansion of the new global middle class. This has not occurred in a vacuum. The BRICS and second tier countries such as Brazil and Turkey have made the headlines for their rise in income and high annual GDP growth but this is only part of the story, with increasing wealth has also come a massive rise in development. According to the OECD, Brazil's middle class has risen from 29pc of the population in the 1980s to 52pc in 2009 almost doubling. In Turkey's case, income per capita nearly tripled between 2002 and 2011 bringing more and more people into a growing middle class and increasinging the ranks of the global middle class.
According to the Brookings Institution, there are now 700 million more people with $US10-100 per day to spend than there were in 2003. Moreover, what they call the global middle class is expected to grow by another 1.3 billion over the next ten years. This new phase of creating a global middle class brings major benefits for the global economy. Instead of the somewhat one-sided trade pattern of the last two decades, it means greater well-being for households in “developing countries” and opportunities for more producers in the advanced economies.There has also been a massive re-alignment of world trade between what has been tradionally called South-South countries. Trade between South-South countries currently stands at around 30pc.
As a result there have been tectonic shifts in the rebalancing of the world in development terms. It is no longer clear which countries are “developed” and which are still “developing”. This re-alignment has in turn brought a massive expansion of human capabilities and provided choices to people entering the new global middle class that they clearly did not have in the 20th century. This point is well illustrated in the 2013 UN Human Development Report 2013. The Report highlights the fact that progress on human development has accelerated in the last decade and all of the 40 countries analysed in the Report are doing better than expected.
Why have some countries done better than others?
Interestingly several factors have influenced the overall outcomes of accerlating people's accession into the global middle class when comparing the different experiences of countries on a global level.
In countries where the State has taken a long term perspective on development, people have been accelerated in to the middle class. In some countries the state has actively promoted job creation, this has also helped to sustain the creation of the middle class. Where the state has enhanced investment in health and education – these policies have greatly helped to assist people to move into middle class. In Turkey, for example, the Government decided to provide healthcare for all and target the poor. In Brazil, the Government managed to expand education by matching the funds available across regions and municipalities. In México, the state provided cash transfers for social policy interventions.
Some countries have also taken an active role in nurturing the industrial capacities and by actively investing in people which has allowed them to make the most of trade opportunities in global markets.
What is the flipside?
Interestingly a new global middle class made up of educated, inter-connected youth will increasingly demand far greater accountability. This point has already been illustrated by large-scale demonstrations in Brazil and Turkey which are a direct result of the creation of an enhanced middle class and both countries' economic success over the last decade.
Growing middle classes are far less tolerant when it comes to governments performing inadequately. Delivery of services, such as education and health, is poor in both Brazil and Turkey. In its last scorecard on educational attainment referred to as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the OECD found that Turkey and Brazil ranked especially poorly in maths and science. In maths, Turkey ranked 41st out of 62 countries, while Brazil was in 55th place. In science, Turkey was 40th and Brazil 50th. In the UNDP's 2013 Human Development Index, Brazil ranked 85th and Turkey 90th out of 186 countries. It is not clear what the implications of the current protests will be for these two countries.
Much will depend on how the democratically elected leaders of Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan and the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff react to these challenges. The aspirations of the middle class are colliding with the current capacity of these countries to deliver.
In order for the new global middle class to be sustainable it has been shown that countries with less inequality do better and improve far more as more people are added to the middle class. Furthermore educating women to adulthood has been shown to be key to reducing fertility rates. Another key point is that in order to reap the benefits of youth bulge that exists in so many emerging economies, job creation for the young is also key.
Finally participation and inclusion is essential to stability and social cohesion – this in itself is what will ultimately sustain the new global middle class.