Every year the United Nations Human Development Report looks for a new way to measure the lives of people. Putting aside faceless statistics like per capita gross domestic product, the report burrows into the facts about what children eat, who goes to school, whether there is clean water to drink, and so on.

This year, the report takes its first look at what people have--from simple toilets to family cars--and what proportion of the world's goods and services are consumed, comparatively, by the rich and the poor. The pie is huge--the world's consumption bill is $24 trillion a year--but some servings are very small indeed.

The haves. The richest fifth of the world's people consumes 86% of all goods and services while the poorest fifth consumes just 1.3%. Indeed, the richest fifth consumes 45% of all meat and fish, 58% of all energy used and 84% of all paper, has 74% of all telephone lines and owns 87% of all vehicles.

Natural resources. Since 1970, the world's forests have declined from 4.4 square miles per 1,000 people to 2.8 square miles per 1,000 people. In addition, a quarter of the world's fish stocks have been depleted or are in danger of being depleted and another 44% are being fished at their biological limit.

The ultra rich. The three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries.

Africa. The average African household today consumes 20% less than it did 25 years ago.

The super rich. The world's 225 richest individuals, of whom 60 are Americans, have a combined wealth of over $1 trillion--equal to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the entire world's population.

Cosmetics and education. Americans spend $8 billion a year on cosmetics--$2 billion more than the estimated total needed to provide basic education for everyone in the world.

The have-nots. Of the 4.4 billion people in developing countries, nearly three-fifths lack access to safe sewers, a third have no access to clean water, a quarter do not have adequate housing, and a fifth have no access to modern health services of any kind.

Meat. Americans each consume an average of 260 pounds of meat a year. In Bangladesh, the average is six and a half pounds.

Telephone lines. Sweden and the U.S. have 681 and 626 telephone lines per 1,000 people, respectively. Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have one line per 1,000 people.

Ice cream and water. Europeans spend $11 billion a year on ice cream--$2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide clean water and safe sewers for the world's population.

Land mines. More than 110 million active land mines are scattered in 68 countries, with an equal number stockpiled around the world. Every month more than 2,000 people are killed or maimed by mine explosions.

Pet food and health. Americans and Europeans spend $17 billion a year on pet food--$4 billion more than the estimated annual additional total needed to provide basic health and nutrition for everyone in the world.

$40 billion a year. It is estimated that the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all and clean water and safe sewers for all is roughly $40 billion a year--or less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.


Courtesy of the United Nations Human Development Report