Red Alert

200 years that changed the world

Posted by on June 6th, 2010

If you haven’t come across Hans Rosling and his gapminder graphs, have a look at this. Brilliant representation of the last 200 years of economic development. It puts the NZ debate about catching up with Australia in an interesting time and space context.

Now link here and press play to track New Zealand v Shanghai since 1952.


20 Responses to “200 years that changed the world”

  1. Spud says:

    Cool 😀

  2. Interesting but I wonder how useful life expectancy is as a metric. Did most people in pre-industrial societies really die in their mid-30s or did the very high infant mortality rate just mean that the overall average was pretty low?

  3. Loota says:

    The live version on the gapminder website seems to work best with Internet Explorer, not Firefox.

    Notice how 50 years ago countries like Japan, Singapore and South Korea were all in the dirt. In the 50’s we were neck and neck with countries like Canada and Australia, if not arguably leading them.

    Bottom line is that these countries have managed their economies better than NZ has, to the extent that from being war torn, Japan/Singapore/South Korea are now as rich, or far richer than, us.

    NZ had all the early advantages, even catching up with Australia in the early days even though they had a several year head start being settled by Europeans.

  4. zaahk says:

    Dr. Rosling is great. He’s has some fantastic videos on TED.

  5. Phil Twyford says:

    Danyl, it would be interesting to see the stats but I am guessing very high infant mortality in 19th century knocked maybe 10-15 years off the average. I thought one of the interesting things about the video was the way there was a huge increase in health before the big increases in income kicked in. I think the story here is that the big improvements in public health (piped water, modern sewerage systems, improvements in medical systems, nutrition) came about in western societies in early 20th century, and when contemporary developing countries reached middle-income. The really big increases in income (mid and latter half of 20th century) had a much smaller effect on life expectancy.

  6. Debbz says:

    To Phil, yes i read some research once on the incredible impact that water reticulation, and good sewage systems had on health and life expectancy …my brothers a infrastructure engineer.
    Also knowledge on infection, and of course vaccination, so huge killers in history like smallpox are now rare.

  7. SPC says:

    The proof of the importance of modern public utilities was shown when Iraq was under UN sanctions for 10 years through the 90’s until the US occupation – hundreds of thousands died. Something the world forgets currently re Gaza.

  8. PaulL says:

    Health spending has an interesting curve. The first bit of it is essential and preventative health. Relatively inexpensive, huge improvements in life expectancy.

    The second tranche of health expenditure is essentially discretionary – quality of life type ailments, and ailments that occur on quite elderly people. In poor countries you just tough it out – so your knees hurt every day, doesn’t stop you working. In richer countries, you get a knee replacement.

    This is why the countries with very high health expenditure often don’t show equivalent improvements in basic health metrics – that extra spending is largely luxury spending, equivalent to spending money on holidays (which also goes up when people get richer).

    Kind of makes sense – and puts a different spin on health spend as a % of GDP – once you understand that health spending is driven by GDP, not the other way round.

  9. Fisiani says:

    So it’s fairly clear that the direction of Budget 2010 to move expenditure from the stagnation of the last 10 years into actually growing the economy and away from property speculation resulting in 170,000 more jobs is a great start on the road to recovery

  10. Loota says:

    Hmmmmm FF, not sure what you are pointing to here, the treasury forecasts for the next few years’ growth thanks to the Budget itself are extremely anaemic.

    And less than 10% of those 170,000 jobs you mention are related to changes due to the Budget IIRC, most are simply due to cyclical improvements post world financial crisis.

    Which Cullen left the country in great shape to ride out I might add.

  11. DeepRed says:

    And what sort of jobs exactly? More fast food joints and SUV dealerships, or more research centres and laboratories?

  12. Loota says:

    The wealthy need their lawns cut and their pools cleaned. Those can surely be considered ‘real jobs’.

    Interesting how NZ is well ahead of Singapore through to the 1950;s and 1960’s, Singapore pulls even with us in the 1980’s and now their per capita income leaves Australia behind.

    NZ needs to be viewing Singapore as demonstrating the economic goals and prosperity to reach for, not the West Island.

  13. Luke says:

    Interestingly Singapore did not get where it was because of the wonders of the free market.
    There was very heavy (and still is) govt investment in areas of the economy, and they picked the right sectors by looking forward.
    Unfortunately NZ was looking backwards when large investments were made (Think Big) and it was disastrous.
    On the other hand if to get to Singapore’s level of growth requires reductions in our personal freedom, then I’m happy with our economy as it is now.

  14. Jeremy M Harris says:

    Loota raises a good point about Singapore the excellent book, “New Zealand Unleashed” points out that despite having no natural resources Singapore has shot ahead of us and Australia due to it having or embracing three things:

    1). Creation of new ideas
    2). Absorbtion of foreign ideas
    3). Willingness to change

    We need to foster scientists and entreprenuers, have a system that encourages adaption of foreign patents and be open to rejection of ideas that don’t work that we have implemented and constantly try new ideas…

    If we do that there is no reason, given our natural resources, that we can’t be the richest nation on Earth, while retaining our diversity, environment and public services…

  15. Loota says:

    Well yep I am on the same page as you guys. Development of advanced high added value industries and services requires consistency and focus over a long period of time. At least 10-20 years.

    NZ was still providing foreign aid to Singapore in the 60’s.

    Currently the lack of scientific enterprise in this country means that if you graduate with a BSc in Physics, Chemistry or Math, you will likely be relegated to doing another year so you can be a teacher. Hardly any chance for you to actually work in the field you qualified in.

  16. Loota says:

    Phil said:

    The really big increases in income (mid and latter half of 20th century) had a much smaller effect on life expectancy.

    Then fit in the extreme increases in spending on the medical system in the last 20 years, and see how much of a lift that brought. (Very moderate).

    Pills and scalpels cannot replace the benefits of eating your greens and doing exercise every day.

  17. Jeremy M Harris says:

    Google genomics Loota…

    A good way for us to make the next “life expectancy leap” while reducing costs…

  18. Millie Pickle says:

    Interesting how small the increments of growth NZ has experienced, compared with other countries. We have taken baby steps in comparison. Is this perhaps a natural feature of New Zealand econmics due to smaller scale land mass and population? And if so, does that not point to a different direction for New Zealand? Instead of trying to catch up to the faster growing economies, perhaps we could see prosperity as a greater value. If you can’t beat them on growth, beat them on prosperity. If you run a projection for Shanghai over the next 20 years with increasing scarcity of resources, it would be heading downhill again I would imagine, unless they are flexible enough to engineer sustainability into their system as they go. Which would take them away from increasing growth as their goal.

  19. Edosan says:

    It’s fun to watch just Iceland. Not so fun to watch sub-saharan African countires when the 80’s hit.