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This section details global variations in a range of socio-demographic indicators of relevance to the social conditions underlying world retailing.

Crime and punishment - See also Crime and Punishment

1)    Death Penalty Map (map amended 26 February 2013). Abolition of the death penalty within a national legal system is a sign of growing concern over, and recognition of, Human Rights in that country.  Hence countries that have abolished the death penalty tend to be more liberal in many respects, with tolerance of many varied living arrangements and household types beyond the traditional nuclear family.  If a country wants to join the European Union, it must also abolish the death penalty.  Retailers and marketers have to take into account a wider range of consumer types, lifestyles, and consumption habits.  Note, this map indicates the date on which the death penalty was officially abolished for all offences, including military and wartime.  This date is often much later than the time when the death penalty cease to be used in practice by the courts.

2)    Prisoners per 100,000 Population (map added 19 May 2011).  Incarceration rates vary widely across the world, from under 50 per 100,000 in much of Africa to over 700 in the USA; the highest rate in the world, unless one takes into account the genocide-related prisoners in Rwanda, or the huge numbers of political prisoners in North Korea.  The former Soviet Union countries tend to lock up a lot of people too.  For Tesco – have you thought about running a prison service?  It’s one of the few services you don’t offer, and it would probably make it a lot easier to deal with shoplifters.

Education – see also Education in schools, Education in universities,

3)    Literacy rates, 1960 and 2005 (map added 3 July 2012).  This map indicates the overall average adult litercay rates in 1960 and 2005.   The good news is that, in every country, literacy rates have improved.  In much of the world, excepting Afirca, southern Asia, and parts of south / central America, literacy rates are above 90%; they are effectively 100% in many countries.  The bad news is that the differentials apparent in 1960 persist into 2005; Africa remains the least literate continent, with southern Asia not far ahead.  For retailers, a more literate society is good.  Literate people have higher earnings, more spending power, and spend more on luxury goods.  They are more open to advertising messages, too.  They may be more discerning of false and misleading claims about goods and services, but that shouldn’t worry responsible retailers or manufacturers.

4)    Male-Female Literacy Differential Map (map added 27 January 2010).  This map indicates, not the overall level of literacy, but the gap between male and female literacy rates.  A country where 55% of the men and 40% of the women can read scores the same, -15%, as a country where 85% of the men and 70% of the women are literate.  Many countries cannot afford to educate, even to a basic level, all their citizens; however it is less clear why, in many countries, boys are consistently more privileged with a basic education than girls are.  At a family level it may make financial sense to concentrate limited educational resources into the male children, as their potential earnings as men will be higher than for women.  But nationally this impoverishes the country.  Globally some 10% less women than men are literate; how many of these 350 million women, had they been given a basic education, would have gone on to produce great scientific or social innovations?  Higher female literacy rates are usually associated with lower birth-rates, as these women have access to birth control and also can command higher work earnings.  For retailers, a higher female literacy rate will likely mean an older, more educated, and more environmentally-conscious market, a shift from home cooking to prepared meals, smaller families, less children, and a higher % spend on luxury goods as the % household income going on essentials like food and shelter falls.


5)    Agricultural employment (map added 3 July 2012).  This map shows the percentage of the workforce in agricultural employment, in 1960 and in 2010.  Even in a totally rural society, farmers always need some non-agricultural employment; manufacturers of farm implements, chemical production of fertilisers and weedkillers, builders, legal services, accountants, for example.  Not to mention protection services (against both animal and plant pests,and also human robbers).  Over time the efficiency of agriculture has increased, as innovations have increased the productivity of farmland, and farms have got bigger, reaping economies of scale as smaller farmers have left the land.  For retailers, a more urbanised society is generally wealthier; human resources not needed for food production can instead contribute towards other goods and services.  Africa is the one world region where, in several countries, the proportion of workers in agriculture has not significantly fallen, and these countries remain amongst the world’s poorest nations.


6)    Obesity Map (map added 9 May 2010).  Excluding micro-states such as Nauru, the USA has one of the world’s highest obesity rates; in Europe the territory of former Yugoslavia tops the fat league.  Worldwide, being American (north or south), or speaking English, appear as risk factors for obesity.  This is likely due to the stronger pro-capitalist work ethic in these countries, promoting long office hours and both family partners working at the expense of time for home cooking; eating ready-meals is a well-known factor for obesity.  Middle-income countries such as Turkey, Poland, and Brazil may be at risk because in these countries the population has begun to move away from agricultural self-sufficiency and home cooking into urban living and office work, but low incomes constrain many of these urban households to cheaper foodstuffs, which tend to be less healthy and obesogenic.  That is why the Pacific island of Nauru (not shown on this map) has a high obesity rate, because it imports in large quantities the cheaper fatty cuts of meat from New Zealand that would not sell well to wealthier countries in Europe, also Nauru has been devastated by phosphate mining and there is little land fit to grow local fruit and vegetables.  For retailers, obesity is a CSR ( corporate social responsibility) issue; both consumers and the government are likely to ;look badly on your business if you are imposing social health costs by selling obesogenic food.  McDonalds is a good example of a global food retailer which has taken steps to improve the health image of its food.

Population growth – see also International Institutions

7)    Fertility rate map (map added 9 May 2010).  This map shows the fertility rate (the number of children a woman is expected to bear during her lifetime) for 1970 and 2005.  The replacement rate is 2.1 (not 2.0, because some children will die before they reach adulthood).  Worldwide, fertility has fallen markedly in almost all countries, excepting a few African states.  Green shades indicate countries where the fertility rate is below 2.1.  In 1970 only some European states had below-replacement fertility rates, but by 2005 North America, Europe, even much of Asia and some Caribbean islands, were below-replacement levels.  Even without migration, the population will not fall straightaway in a below-replacement state because low birth rates often go with higher prosperity and economic activity, especially for women; in such states, life expectancy rises and the population does not fall, but becomes older, with serious implications for pensions with fewer workers and more OAPs.  Eventually, though, the population will begin to fall as the oldies die off; this is where Japan is now (2010).  In much of Western Europe, immigration is more than balancing any population drop due to low birth rates; this may change as migrant birth rates also fall, and political toleration of continued immigration wanes. In Western European countries that attract fewer migrants, such as Italy and Germany, the population is beginning to fall.  Few migrants head for Eastern Europe, and here population levels are returning to 1970s levels, especially in Russia where low birth rates combine with a high mortality rate, largely due to alcoholism.  China’s fertility rate has fallen markedly due to its ‘One Child’ policy; an undesirable side effect of this has been selective female infanticide, threatening a socially-destabilising surplus of young unmarried men; China is now relaxing this policy.  For retailers, a low fertility rate is a mixed blessing; on the one hand it generally goes with increased prosperity and consumer spending power, but also reduces retailing opportunities for child-oriented goods, and means an older customer base that is less willing to try new goods and will die sooner than younger customers.  On the other hand a high fertility rate means poorer customers and a less-developed retail and transport infrastructure.  Perhaps best for retailers is a middle-fertility / middle income nation such as Turkey, Mexico, or Brazil, where there are plenty of young customers and a growing retail market, but the country has not yet developed a significant supermarket sector and competition for new foreign-entrant supermarkets is as yet limited.

8)    Birth and death rate diagram (added 3 July 2012).  This diagram shows, for selected countries, changes in their crude birth and death rates over time (crude rate = rate per 1,000 people; unadjusted for the demographic make-up of the population).  Most countries are following a broadly similar path in birth/death rates, known as the demographic transition; the differences are in how far along this path the country has got.  Wealthier countries are further down this route than poorer ones; Sudan has got, from 1950 to 2005, to almost exactly where Italy was back in 1950.  Less-developed nations start in the top right of the diagram, with high birth and death rates (see paragraph for ‘population growth map’ below).   Declining birth and death rates take the country down and to the left.  Finally, as the population ages, death rates may rise again and even exceed birth rates; this takes the country into the bottom right of the diagram, the ‘sea of death’.  Without compensting levels of immigration, the population should now start declining, and this has started to occur in e.g. Japan and Germany.  Russia is a special case where the birth rate has plummeted and soaring disease rates (e.g AIDS, TB, alcoholism) have sharply raised the death rate; other east European countries also have declining populations due to an excess of births over deaths, and excess of emigration over immigration.  For retailers, the rise in wealth associated with decliming birth rates is good, but a high birth rate means an expanding market.  Older customers are less profitable because they tend to reduce their purchasing expenditure after they have died.  However an abundant supply of pensioners isn’t just good news for care homes.  It offers a whole new range of marketing opportunities to retailers and manufacturers who are willing to adapt their offerings to the particular needs and desires of the ‘grey’ consumer.

9)    Life expectancy Map (map added 19 May 2011).  If you are reading this in the UK the chances are you are over 40 years old, as that is the median age for Great Britain now.  At that age in Africa in 1950 you would probably have already died.  Life expectancy has risen in all countries, but Sub-Saharan Africa has been sadly left behind.  A lethal combination of war, famine, disease, drought and other natural disasters, along with poverty, have all reinforced each other to keep the undertakers busy.  Then came AIDS.  Because of AIDS, life expectancy in some African countries is actually falling.  For retailers, advancing life expectancy is a sign of a prosperous country with growing spending power; the cloud to this silver lining is that an ageing population will probably increase the tax burden as governments, and also employers, struggle to pay pension bills.  Or retailers may learn the many advantages of employing older people in their late 60s and 70s, or even beyond.

10)                      Population Growth Map (map added 27 January 2010).  Between 1950 and 2009 the world population increased by a factor of 2.65, from 2,560 million to 6,800 million.  There are enormous variations within this; come countries have seen their population increase by over 900%, whilst one territory, former East Germany, actually had a lower population in 2009 than it did in 1950, as did the US State of West Virginia.  Globally, poorer countries have higher population growth rates, whilst population growth is lower both in wealthy countries and in formerly-prosperous industrial territories.  Poorer countries often lack a State social security net for old age or sickness, and death rates are higher due to lower availability of medical care, so women have more children to ensure that at least some survive to look after the grandparents in their old age.  Women’s earnings in poorer countries are often limited so having more children is less of a financial sacrifice.  In wealthy countries, the State (or private pension schemes), not a multiplicity of younger family members, provides old age support, and women forego much more salary to have a child.  In such prosperous lands, the birth-rate is often insufficient to maintain the population, which would be falling but for immigration from poorer regions.  In formerly prosperous industrial regions, the birth-rate is low, and there is migration outwards, to wealthier places.  For retailers, a high birth-rate may be attractive as it provides a growing market of long-term consumers; but it also tends to go with a lower disposable income per household.  Middle-income countries like Poland, where there is opportunity for supermarket expansion and enough spending power to support new retailers, are perhaps the best bet for expansion abroad.  In Western Europe the population growth is now almost all due to immigration, and retailers have had to take account of an increasingly diverse market in terms of food, annual holidays, clothes, Sharia-compliant finance, and many other products and services.

11)                      Urbanisation Map (map added 19 May 2011).  By 2010 man had, statistically speaking, become an urban species; more than 50% of us now live in cities.  Whereas in 1950 city living was quite rare in much of Africa and Asia, and even in Europe and N America most countries or States were more then half rural.  Grocery retailers like urbanisation; as people move into cities they tend to become wealthier, grow less of their own food, and buy more non-food items too which the grocery supermarkets find more profitable.


12)                      GDP (per capita and national), 1960 and 2005, as % of USA (map added 19 May 2011).  At a national level, the GDP of the USA stands head and shoulders above any other country – although at current growth rates, China may overtake the USA as the world’s largest national economy sometime in the 2020s.  With its growing population India may even succeed in pushing the USA into 3rd place sometime in the next century.  Regarding GDP per capita it is a very different story; some small-but-affluent countries have already surpassed the USA, whilst China remains way behind.  Meanwhile the benefits of globalisation appear to have passed most of Africa by; in relative terms it has actually fallen even further behind the USA since 1960.  Any rise in African national GDP has been diluted in per capita terms by high population growth.  Whereas rising population can boost GDP, it frequently has not done so in Africa, where war and economic disruption along with the ravages of AIDS has meant the mechanisms for translating more people into more jobs and more economic growth has not materialised in many Sub-Saharan countries.  Another area that appears to have got poorer is the former Soviet Union states; GDP figures here pre-1990 are dubious, as they were calculated on a different basis from Western figures, and frequently manipulated for political ends.  When Communism fell in 1990, the resultant economic disruption did indeed impoverish many ex-Soviet states.  Of course this assumes that converting national GDPs at market currency exchange rates into US$, so as to facilitate a comparison with America, gives a true picture of average individuals wealth there.  It often does not, because of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).  Although globally traded goods should, by arbitrage, be of similar price worldwide (allowing for transport costs, which are usually relatively small, and allowing for tariff and non-tariff barriers), many goods in less-developed goods are non-tradeable across frontiers.  If you want a haircut, or housing, in Nigeria you must buy Nigerian barbers services and rent accommodation in Nigeria.  You cannot arbitrage and sell cheap Nigerian haircuts in London, where hairdressers charge more, because London land and rents and other costs are higher than in Lagos.  So certain goods and services can remain at a lower price, as wages and other costs are lower, in poorer nations.  The Balsssa-Samuelson theory suggests that workers in tradeable goods sectors in developed countries are paid more than workers in similar jobs in less-developed countries; this is because the developed-country workers have access to greater technology, so are more productive.  That in turn drags up the wages of workers in non-tradeable sectors in developed countries, meanwhile workers in non-tradeable sectors in less developed countries remain on lower wages. So a UK hairdresser is paid more than a Nigerian hairdresser, because the UK salon must pay a wage that will compete with UK factory jobs, so UK haircuts cost more than Nigerian ones. All of this means your US$, converted into Nigerian currency, would buy a lot more than the exchange rate alone would suggest.  Equally, although Danes may appear to have higher incomes in US$ terms than Americans do, the cost of living in Denmark is a lot more than the US$ - Danish Kroner exchange rate allows for.  Also, these maps say nothing about the distribution of wealth within a country.  The United Arab Emirates may look as if its citizens are almost as wealthy as US citizens; in fact a few UAE citizens are fabulously rich, whilst many others, especially long-term migrant workers there, remain poor.

13)                      The ‘Global Metro’.  (map added 4 November 2012). See also Railways. Most major cities around the world have an underground metro system, known to Londoners as ‘the tube’; what would it be like if there was a ‘global metro’ that linked all the cities that possess their own metro system?  Only cities with a system that is at least partially subterranean with its own separate off-street rails, are included here.  What does it take to start your own urban metro system?  Firstly, a large well-populated city, to provide a customer base.  Metros are expensive to build, so, secondly, you need a wealthy State, or a totalitarian State that likes grand public projects, like Pyongyang.  Thirdly, your city should be densely built at the core, with expensive land, or like Australia you will make do with surface tram systems.  Fourthly you need suitable sub-surface geology.  And fifthly you need a culture that isn’t wedded to private car transport, perhaps because your economy is heavily influenced by the oil or auto industries.  Like a national airline, an urban metro system for your capital may be a badge of State honour, a mark of nationhood.  Also How Deep is Your Tube Station. For Londoners, see the deepest, highest, tube stations. Will your station flood if a tidal surge hits the Thames?

14)                      Start of TV broadcasting (map added 10 August 2012).  See also media and arts. TV broadcasting started, unsurprisingly, in the most technologically-advanced countries; the USA in 1928, Germany and the UK in 1929, France in 1931  Likewise, the last nations to acquire the square-eyed box were some of the least technologically-developed; Fiji in 1991, Botswana in 1992, Eritrea in 1993, The Gambia in 1995, and Malawi in 1996.  At that point, only Bhutan remained as the last TV-free bastion; it too fell in 1999.  TV therefore conquered the world in about one human lifespan, 1928 to 1999.  Note that this map is based on the year mass TV broadcasting began in any one country, and reception may not have reached the entire territory until later.  Similarly, citizens of smaller nations may have been able to pick up broadcasts from neighbouring countries before their own state commenced transmissions.  The Bhutanese, for example, could pick up Indian TV on those dull Himalayan evenings long before 1999.  This was, however, illegal, and TVs were pretty thin on the ground in Bhutanese prisons.  Retailers should welcome the spread of TV; it is a potent advertising medium, and signals an increase both in wealth and in individualism as opposed to conformity, opening the way to emotional adverts of self-pampering products, from iPods to botox.  Edward Bernays should be laughing in his grave, as he hosts Channel 666 – strapline, We Know How To Change Your Mind.