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The New Global Middle Class: Potentially Profitable -- but Also Unpredictable

Can the World afford a Middle Class if we continue using today's definition of Development? Are there enough fish banks and forests to be harvested and exploited? Can the environment sustain additional billions of consumers of cars? I am not again development, at all. On the contrary, I just think we need to think about new ways development that can be sustainable.

As Foreign Policy asks, "Can the world afford a middle class?". As the article says, there will be resource strains, we will need technology to ease the resource demands with greater efficiency or make new resources available...


A new global middle class is rising up from poverty in emerging economies around the world, providing competition for labor and resources, but also enormous promise for multinationals that tailor products and services to the burgeoning ranks of first-time consumers.



Dario van der Lundin

The answer to the question is very simple with a mathematical touch:
more Middle class + Middle Class behaviors (spend and consume) = more jobs and a better living standard, better health care, environment, etc ... It is the Swedish Model the Europanache.

Dario van der Lundin

Dario, I can see your point -- and it might work when applied to one country, or maybe a dozen if they are of the size of Sweden.

But when we talk about countries like India, China or Indonesia, with huge populations, or when we think about countries that would endanger their (our) natural resources to provide an "old-style" consumerist middle-class standard to their populations, then we would rapidly reach a point of unsustainability. Just think about the fact that, still today, most of the electricity generated in China comes from coal (68.7% of its electricity from coal as of 2006, according to the wikipedia (

I am not defending keeping countries underdeveloped, and neither support certain international aid policies that only ensure the current status quo. But applying the current "developed country" concept/values of middle-class in those countries would lead to an environmental disaster, that would put at risk those same middle-classes they were trying to establish -- unless a technological revolution happened in sectors like energy.

I like your idea of making a parallel between better life standards and health care and environmental protection -- Very European, and hopefully the model to be followed in those countries. Health and education first, for a more sustainable development model :-)

Michael Masouras

There is an ethical issue here too: how can we expect developing countries with huge populations to make sacrifices if western countries are responsible for lion's share of emissions *already* in the atmosphere (China is now a problem, but cumulatively, it's still a very small percentage).

On the other hand, you can argue about the ethics of having a population of 1.5b people and expecting the world to make the same sacrifices. A way to approach this is by assigning quotas based on land mass rathern than population, and transfer the burden to the country to control its population (or say, invade someone ;-)) .

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