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Quality of Life

For any society, material prosperity is certainly important, yet it not the sole criterion to judge the quality of life. For most people non-material things value more. Thomas Sowell (1993) suggests and many others agree that in the final analysis “no values are really material because what we seek from even material things is some sort of psychic satisfaction.” The social scientists are misguided in a sense that while observing a certain population, they impose their own values on the target people and wish them to believe what these scientists consider right. For instance, the “crowdedness” is considered something the people should want to avoid. Why it is then so that most people choose to live in high-density areas? They rather pay a high premium for that. We know that the cost of living is much higher in the cities and urban industrial centres, yet the rural population is continuously migrating to metropolitans. What are they going there for? Better employment opportunities and a whole array of social amenities — essential components of improved quality of life - are what they seek and get there. This preference of the people to move from scarcely populated areas to densely populated quarters is a clear indicator that prosperity is linked with high population density.

Long life expectancy and low infant mortality are two important indicators of better quality of life. Global evidence is that since the rapid increase in population in the 17th century, the two indices have steadily improved. Same is the case of Pakistan as revealed by its socioeconomic history of five decades, where graphs illustrating population growth and life expectancy look nearly identical. And, in spite of all pitfalls and misdeeds in the social sector planning and programming, the infant mortality rate has been steadily declining in Pakistan.

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No one would disagree that the loss of morale is detrimental to the productivity of people. Well then, is it morale boosting to deprive a couple of the very basic human right how many children the family should have? Those who invite the government to intervene, in fact, seek to resort to “sterile measures” like the per capita income. Measures of per capita may have their uses, but Peter Bauer (1993) tells us something else:

“In the economics of population, national income per head founders completely as a measure of welfare. It takes no account of the satisfaction people derive from having children or from living longer. The birth of a child immediately reduces income per head for a family and also for the country as a whole. The death of the same child has the opposite effect. Yet... the first event is a blessing and the second a tragedy. Ironically, the birth of child is registered as a reduction in national income per head, while the birth of a farm animal shows up as an improvement.”

So, here we face the  extreme of anti-humanism that human beings, considered by the biologists only homo-sapiens, are rated by the economists-demographers worst than the goat and sheep.


Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.