Authors: Hans Rosling
How do you like your bath water? Ice cold or steam hot? Of course, those are not the only alternatives. You can also have your water freezing, tepid, scalding, or anything in between. Many options, along a range.
FACT QUESTION 2
Where does the majority of the world population live?
A: Low-income countries
B: Middle-income countries
C: High-income countries
The majority of people live neither in low-income countries nor in high-income countries, but in middle-income countries. This category doesn’t exist in the divided mind-set, but in reality it definitely exists. It’s where 75 percent of humanity lives, right there where the gap is supposed to be. Or, to put it another way, there is no gap.
Combining middle- and high-income countries, that makes 91 percent of humanity, most of whom have integrated into the global market and made great progress toward decent lives. This is a happy realization for humanitarians and a crucial realization for global businesses. There are 5 billion potential consumers out there, improving their lives in the middle, and wanting to consume shampoo, motorcycles, menstrual pads, and smartphones. You can easily miss them if you go around thinking they are “poor.”
I am often quite rude about the term “developing countries” in my presentations.
Afterward, people ask me, “So what should we call them instead?” But listen carefully. It’s the same misconception: we and them. What should “we” call “them” instead?
What we should do is stop dividing countries into two groups. It doesn’t make sense anymore. It doesn’t help us to understand the world in a practical way. It doesn’t help businesses find opportunities, and it doesn’t help aid money to find the poorest people.
But we need to do some kind of sorting to make sense of the world. We can’t give up our old labels and replace them with … nothing. What should we do?
One reason the old labels are so popular is that they are so simple. But they are wrong! So, to replace them, I will now suggest an equally simple but more relevant and useful way of dividing up the world. Instead of dividing the world into two groups I will divide it into four income levels, as set out in the image below.
Each figure in the chart represents 1 billion people, and the seven figures show how the current world population is spread out across four income levels, expressed in terms of dollar income per day. You can see that most people are living on the two middle levels, where people have most of their basic human needs met.
Are you excited? You should be. Because the four income levels are the first, most important part of your new fact-based framework. They are one of the simple thinking tools I promised would help you to guess better about the world. Throughout the book you will see how the levels provide a simple way to understand all kinds of things, from terrorism to sex education. So I want to try to explain what life is like on each of these four levels.
Think of the four income levels as the levels of a computer game. Everyone wants to move from Level 1 to Level 2 and upward through the levels from there. Only, it’s a very strange computer game, because Level 1 is the hardest. Let’s play.