The consequences of the development gap

HideShow resource information

Impact on people in poor countries

  • The development gap has social, economic, environmental, and political consequences for people in the most advantaged countries, but the precise impacts vary.
  • Urban and rural areas are often affected differently. Remore rural communities experience the worst effects of the cycle of poverty which is rooted in the inability to produce enough food.
  • The incidence of poverty in the developing world is declining in all regions except sub-Saharan Africa. But this does not mean the gap between rich and poor is narrowing. 
  • The statistics for individual countries shows very high numbers of poor people - in some, as many as half the population is living in poverty. 
  • It is very difficult to find statistics about the incidence of rich people, or people who have a secure income.
1 of 13


  • The development gap can create differences not just between the rich and poor, but also between groups such as castes in India or between males and females in the same country.
  • A study of 300 people in rural villages in the coastal districts of Nellore and East Godavari, in India's Andhra Pradesh state, showed that caste is a key factor affecting who gets access to public facilities and services.
2 of 13


  • Women in developing countries are more likely than men to be unpaid family workers or occupy low-status jobs and have lower earnings.
  • They often have limited participation in politics and government, whoch makes it difficult for them to influence policy.
  • Although female literacy is seen as fundamental to improved health and development, 64% of illiterate adults are women. and 57% of children who recieve no primary education are girls.
  • In developing countries 1 in 61 women die during pregnancy or childbirth. In LDCs the figure is 1 in 17.
3 of 13

Megacities and the development gap

  • The fastest-growing economies generally show the highest rates of urbanisation, as much of the development in manufacturing and services occurs in urban areas. 
  • Cities in developing countries are growing rapidly in size and number as people migrate to them for work, access to public services, and a perceived higher standard of living.
4 of 13


  • The growth of large cities will have a considerable influence on future development. As cities grow, the cost of meeting basic needs such as housing infrastructure and services increases, as does pressure on the environment.
  • New migrants to a city have little money, so they cannot rent a home or borrow money to buy one. Land and housing regulations make it difficult for poor people. As a result they either move in with friends or relatives, sleep on the streets or build a makeshift house on unused land, this increasing the number of urban poor.

These 'temporary' settlements tend to occur on land that it:

  • Too steep, marshy or polluted for building.
  • Alongside transport routes.
  • Close to the city centre but not developed because the owner is unknown or has left it empty, hoping it will increase in value.
  • On former farmland at the edge of the city, abandoned as the city spreads.
5 of 13


Urban poverty is a complex problem. the urban poor live with many hardships and face daily challenges, including;

  • Limited access to employment opportunities and income.
  • Reliance on the informal economy.
  • Inadequate, overcrowded, and insecure housing and services.
  • Violent and unhealthy environments due to the density and hazardous location of settlements and exposure to multiple pollutants.
  • Little or no social protection mechanisms, with little support from the police or legal rights.
  • Limited access to health and education opportunities or infrastructure such as telephone and internet services.
  • Limited access to credit facilities. 

With such a high proportion of the population of many developing countries now living in cities, obtaining an accurate picture of where the poor are concentrated within those cities is an important requirement for targeting any management, which might improve the whole country's level of development.

6 of 13


  • Development and poverty reduction are often at the expense of the environment, unless there is careful management or significant efforts to promote sustainable development.
  • Cities in developing countries are affected by the 'brown agenda' associated with economic development. This has two components;
  • 1. Environmental health issues linked to limited availability of good-quality land, shelter, and services such as clean water and sanitation.
  • 2. Problems resulting from rapid industrialisation, such as toxic or hazardous waste; water, air, and noise pollution, and industrial accidents due to poor standards of health and safety.
  • The 'green agenda' focuses on the impact of development on the natural environment, while the 'blue agenda' looks at water quality and supply. 
7 of 13

Social and political unrest

  • It is easy to understand how disparities in wealth can generate uneasiness, discrimination and unrest between rich and poor, both between and within countries.
  • Within countries, they are intensified when the distinction between 'haves' and 'have nots' aligns with sociocultural differences such as ethinicity, religion, political allegiance, and class.
  • The experiences of two countries - South Africa and East Timor - illustrates the ethnic and religious dimensions of some development gaps.
8 of 13

Apartheid in South Africa

  • South Africa has an abundance of natural resources, including gold, diamonds and platinum, and fertile farmlands.
  • Between 1948 and 1990 the government operated a policy known as apartheid.
  • All South Africans were classified in one of three categories: white (European origin), black (African) or coloured (of mixed descent). The coloured category also included Indians and other Asians and formed the middle tier in the racial hierarchy.
  • Apartheid segregated the three groups in all areas of life, including where they lived, and ensured that the vast economic differences between them were maintained, if not increased.
  • Black resentment of this injustice was strong, but kept in check by the white-controlled police and army. 
  • Since the ending of apartheid there has been some easing of the 'gaps' between the three ethinic groups.
  • since 1990 the country has had a succession of black presidents (starting with Nelson Mandela) and governments, but the whites are still very much in control of the economy and wealth.
9 of 13

East Timor

  • East Timor, officially known as the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a small country in southeast Asia. It mainly comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor. From the sixteenth century until 1975 it was a Portugese colony. Shortly after Portugal withdrew, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia.
  • The reasons for the Indonesian occupation of this poor, sparsely populated and undeveloped territory were not immediately obvious. Initially it was thought that Indonesia wanted to stop East Timor adopting a communist regime allied to China, and that it could use the island as a place to move people from the over-populated islands of Java, Bali and Madura.
  • It later emerged that oil and natural gas fields had been discovered under the sea between East Timor and Indonesia.
  • In 1999, after a long guerilla war, Indonesia agreed to let the East Timorese choose between independence and local autonomy. Militia loyal to Indonesia, tried to use terror to discourage a vote for independence. However, more than three-quarters of the people voted in favour and in 2002 East Timor became the first enw sovereign state in the twenty-first century.
  • Exploitation of the oil and gas has now begun with the help of Australia, and East Timor's economic future is beginning to look much brighter. Clearly this will affect the development gap that exists between it and Indonesia.
10 of 13

The consequences of development

  • It is easy to think of the positive oucomes of development: more employment opportunities, higher wages, more services (commercial and welfare) and a better quality of life 
  • But of course those benefits are not shared equally by all levels of society. Often as a country undergoes economic development the wealthy become richer, while the poor become poorer and sometimes even greater in number.
  • In short, the development gap becomes wider within the country.
11 of 13


  • Development changes that bring mixed results include migration. 
  • Increased migration flows appear to be an integral part of development and are of two kinds: international and integral.
  • International migration involves both immigration to a country as it develops (e.g. business people, technicians and workers from less developed countries) and emigration (people now able to seek a better life elsewhere in the world).
  • The internal flows are mostly one-way, from rural to urban and from periphery to core.
12 of 13


  • One of the greatest negatives of development is environmental pollution and the deepening of a country'e ecological footprint. 
  • This is the amount of land and water required to provide one person (or society) with the energy, food, and resources they consume and to absorb the waste they produce.
  • No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and huge amounts of public wealth to undo.
  • Economic development raises demand for resources, particularly minerals and energy, and there is a strong temptation to exploit these quickly and as cheaply as possible, regardless of their environmental costs.
  • 'Growth comes first' tends to be the philosophy.
13 of 13


No comments have yet been made

Similar Geography resources:

See all Geography resources »See all Population change and migration resources »