What Is the Relationship between Social and Economic Development?

Sandi Johnson

Social and economic development are concepts that are so intertwined that the two are often referred to as socioeconomic development. Economic development refers to the policies and programs put into place by leadership to better its citizenry, including raising the standard of living, providing access to healthcare and education, and increasing trade with other groups. Alternatively, social development refers to the systematic improvement of the health, standard of living, education, and awareness of a community. The two concepts of social and economic development are naturally symbiotic, as providing schools and healthcare programs naturally improves a peoples' education and overall health.

When a country's social development stagnates, so does its economy.
When a country's social development stagnates, so does its economy.

To put it simply, economic development ensures a state, country, or region has the funds necessary to build facilities, provide programs, and fund healthcare initiatives. Having those funds available means the government or community can build hospitals and schools to improve the living conditions of its residents. Improving overall living conditions is the heart of social development. In short, economic development leads to social development.

Citizens in India have access to more and better jobs, which reduces poverty levels.
Citizens in India have access to more and better jobs, which reduces poverty levels.

Funding is not the only aspect where social and economic development meet. By increasing a country's gross domestic product, or country-wide level of productivity, social development programs such as higher education are in greater demand. For example, bringing in new trade opportunities and expanding business through agricultural initiatives, manufacturing, or other industries, a country's populace lowers its unemployment. Lower unemployment rates mean more citizens can live above the poverty line. As trade and industry increase, more experienced and better trained employees are needed to help with expanding businesses.

While economic development naturally brings about social development, it is possible to further social development without necessarily increasing economic development efforts. Increasing social development requires stable government, available resources, and the presence of influential individuals or groups. Stable economies can typically support additional social development efforts, such as job growth in specific sectors, the creation of paid educational opportunities like colleges and universities, and awareness programs meant to minimize the occurrence of preventable diseases. All that is required is a shift in how funds are allocated and for influential people or groups to advocate for social change — provided the stability and resources are available.

Many developing nations participate in both social and economic development efforts. Goals include efforts to protect the people from random factors, such as natural disasters, as well as systematic factors such as healthcare and discrimination laws. India, for example, has participated in both social and economic development by increasing the technological skills of its populace and marketing those skills to foreign countries. Citizens of India have more and better job opportunities, thus lowering poverty levels while also increasing the gross domestic product and tax base for the entire country. In this way, India is better able to support free education and better healthcare.

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