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Wind turbine


Human Development Index




Social sustainability: quality of life


Sustainable Development must take into account social factors as well as economic and environmental considerations. Social factors include things such as:

  • Numbers of people with jobs

  • Poverty

  • Opportunities for education and training

  • Health and availability of medical services

  • Human rights and equal opportunities

  • Crime and social disorder levels

  • Housing provisions and quality



Children collecting rubbish from tip

Poverty means some children in Brazil need to work by collecting anything of value from rubbish tips.

(Photo: United Nations)

Some of these factors can be readily measured. For example, employment rates and average incomes can be taken from official statistics. The Gross Domestic product (GDP) of a country puts a monetary value on the wealth of the nation. These indicators can give a measure of the standard of living but not necessarily show the quality of life.


Anti-war demonstrators.

Measuring human rights and equal opportunities can be more subjective and may need to take into account people's personal experiences and opinions. These are more difficult to measure but are important as they all impact on a person's quality of life.

The Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2004 focused sustainable development onto social issues such as providing clean drinking water for millions who do not have it.

Looking at social indicators show people's quality of life but do not necessarily address environmental or economic issues.


Johannesburg World Summit

Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development