New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 147

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The FACTS

Shopping around
While rich world people are spending more money on
housing, durable goods and clothes, poor world consumers
struggle for basic items such as food and clean water.
Western 'free market' ideals ignore the needs of the poor
who have neither the money nor the political clout
to shape the supply to meet their demand.

THE HOUSEHOLD BUDGET

People spend their money differently according to how much they earn. The lower paid spend more on basic items like food and housing, as well as on tobacco. Middle and upper income earners splash out on ‘luxury items’ like clothes, durable goods such as videos and transport. Patterns of consumption change from country to country with Americans spending a higher proportion of their income on housing than Britons orCanadians. The British outlay on alcohol is the highest. Canadians spend less of their income on household durable goods such as freezers orTVs. Below are some of the ways we spend our money.

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T Average UK wage in 1983 for women was £5668 ($6,632): for men £8,476 ($9916). Average incomes in the US, Canada and Auatraiia are significantly higher. So ‘middle’ incomes really refer to North America and would strictly be classified as ‘upper’ incomes in Britain.

* includes tobacco

+ includes alcohol


CONSUMPTION CASUALTIES
As one would expect cars, tobacco and alcohol cause the greatest number of deaths and injuries. But this survey of eight most hazardous products in the US finds that dangers lurk everywhere - including the playroom.

Car crashes Every year nearly 50,000 people die and 4 million are injured, with thousands being crippled for life. That’s equivalent to a majorairline crash with no survivors every day of the year. In the next ten years every American can expect to be in a car accident.

Snuffing it US government estimates that cigarettes play a major role in more than 300,000 ‘premature’ deaths each year from disease. Also, cigarettes are the number one cause of deaths from residential fires.

Down the hatch 13 million Americans abuse or are addicted to alcohol. This is a major cause of tens of thousands of deaths and millions of injuries from accidents involving automobiles, boats and weapons. Medical bills, time missed from work, property damage and other associated costs of alcohol abuse totalled an estimated $100 billion in 1982 in the USA.

Perilous playthings Each year more than 1 00,000 toys-related injuries are reported, most caused by falls on or against toys and by children choking, swallowing small parts or cutting themselves on sharp edges. Toy guns, slings and bows and an’ows are especially dangerous injuring some 25,000 a year.

[image, unknown] Bike rider As roads get busier and cars go faster each year thousands of riders lose their lives and more than half a million are injured. Improved user and manufacturer attention to safety could reduce injuries.

Saw points Over 100,000 Americans a year are hurt by power saws and many have serious injuries involving the loss of a finger, a toe or hand. Bums and electrocutions are also a hazard.

Lawn clippings More than 50,000 accidents occur each yearfrom lawnmowers and grass/leaf catchers.

Home hazards Some of the most dangerous products are household cleansers because they contain highly toxic substances like caustic used in oven/drain cleaners or ammonia/bleach. Each year more than 25,000 people are injured by these products, especially children.

Source: US Consumer Pmduct Safety Commission and Consumer Federation of America.


LOANS - DEEPER IN DEBT

Using cash to pay for goods is becoming a thing of the past. Instead we use a credit card or buy through hire purchase. Americans are the most in debt, but the trend is catching on in the UK and Australia. Young people (aged 18 - 25) are now the banks’ prime target - 15 percent of this age group in the US have bank credit cards.

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Figures are not adjusted for inflation. Australian total consumer credit debt is
A$18.8 million estimated by Mintel Australia Report Oct. 1984.

Sources: US Bureau of the Census. UK Dept of Trade and Industry


[image, unknown] WAGES - BRINGING HOME THE BACON

Australians have to work for just over 7 minutes to buy a loaf of bread, less than half their counterpart in West Germany. In the last five years living standards have fallen slightly for America, but they’ve fallen more for Europeans. The chart below shows the hours and minutes needed to earn the money to buy various items in three European countries. But ‘the US has the lowest "work-to-live" cost in the world’ according to Forbes magazine.

Source: Eurostat 1980


BASIC NEEDS - THE BOTTOM LINE
For most people in the developing countries the first worry is not the rupee or peso wisely spent but whether they’ll have enough to get by. The basic needs for food, clean water, housing, education, health and work are for many people still largely unmet.

[image, unknown] WATER AND SANITATION
Over half the people (1 ,320 m) in the Third World (excluding China) do not have clean water and 1,730 m - three quarters - lack. adequate sanitation.

Source: Earthscan

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HOUSING
Nearly half the inhabitants of Third World cities cannot afford the cheapest house which meets basic health and safety needs. More than one million live in illegal shanties in the major cities like Lima, Lagos, Delhi, Cairo and Mexico City.

Source: UN Centre for Human Settlements

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[image, unknown] INFANT MORTALITY
Average infant mortality per 1,000 live births in developing countries is 86, but in Africa it is 120. In the West, the rate is 18 per 1,000 live births.

Source: US Foreign Policy and the Third World 1983

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FOOD
Out of a total world population of about 4,500 million, 500 million are actually starving, most of them children under 5 years.

Source: UN FAQ

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[image, unknown] LIFE EXPECTANCY
In the Third World. average is 57 years, going up to 69 for Oceania. 63 for Latin Amenca, 58 for Asia but only 49 for Africa.

Source: US Foreign Policy and the Third World 1983

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LITERACY
Average literacy in developing countries is 57% but for Africa it’s only 36% whereas in Latin America it’s 79%. In low income countries 90% of boys aged 6 - 11 are in primary school but only 64% of girls

Source: US Foreign Policy and the Third Wofid 1983 & State of the World’s Children Report, 1985


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