Human Development: A Roadmap towards Economic Sustainability


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Human development is the concept upon which a welfare state stands; however, human development as a means to achieve sustainable economic development has risen as a new debate in the corridors of policymaking. Whether human development is, a means towards or the end of the welfare state is a query to be delved deep in. The argument of human development as an end should not be construed as a denial of human development as means. For instance, human development in the form of people being better educated, more healthy, less debilitated, and so on not only constitutes better quality of life, but it also contributes to their productivity and ability to make a larger contribution to the progress of material prosperity of a state. Put a piece of evidence here. Thus, increasing human capability and growth would eventually lead to a state’s sustainable future, providing intergenerational equity and justice. 

Understanding human development and economic sustainability and their relationship with each other

  • Human development

The basic idea of human development or capability, having been pursued recently in different forms, involves the assertion of the unacceptability of biases, such as identifying human development based on the overall luxury of society rather than analyzing the range of choices all people have in the community. That notion of human development confirms with Aristotelian idea of the golden mean of society, where wealth is not the only good humans have to seek. Still, it is merely helpful for the sake of something else. That something else is what we call economic sustainability leading human development.

  • Economic sustainability

Economic sustainability is a growing concern, which reflects a fundamental belief that the interest of future generations should receive the same kind of attention that those in the present age get. For example, we must maintain our world resources to develop ourselves. The economic sustainability concept obligates us to prioritize protecting the environment so that future generations will continue to enjoy similar opportunities of leading worthwhile lives enjoyed by the generation that preceded them. 

  • Universalism

Thinking for future generations is worth a decision, but it would be scandalous to ignore the present generation deprived of today’s development. At the state level or world level, development policy must include all the constrained, marginalized people marginalized- irrespective of race, class, gender, nationality or generation. This importance relates to the personhood of people: human beings as persons, not as means of production.

Human development as a means to achieve economic sustainability

  • Better education and sustainability 

Human development as a means to achieve economic sustainability is when we educate the populace under the umbrella of universalism. A general increase in education, for example, should raise productivity and the ability to generate higher incomes in the present and future. Thus, education for sustainable development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values, necessary to shape a sustainable future. According to the Sustainable Development Education Panel report, 1998, “Sustainable development education is essential for achieving a sustainable society, therefore, desirable at all levels of formal education in non-formal and informal learning.” Sustainable development education includes, for instance, education regarding climate change, disaster risk management, biodiversity and sustainable consumption. Thus, better education level proves as the best mode to boost human development, and, thus, economic sustainability.

  • Eradicating poverty: Sustaining future

Moreover, eradicating poverty would also enhance human development factors, helpful in ensuring economic sustainability. According to a report by the World Bank: “Poverty alleviation has been suggested as an instrument to protect the environment from degradation, where it is argued alleviating poverty is a pre-requisite for environmental conservation.” The poor are both victims and agents of ecological damage. People living in poverty lack knowledge regarding environmental hazards or the resources to avoid them. Further, land-hungry farmers cultivate lands not meant to be developed, resulting in erosion, silting and degradation. The impoverished people struggling with poverty are merely surviving. And survival moods never lead to sustainability, which results as almost half of the world is living in poverty. Their lack of resources and miserable living condition stops them from investing in environmental protection for future sustainability. This argument provides an instrumental justification for poverty alleviation to protect the environment, resulting in economic sustainability if provided with sustainable development education.

  • Building sustainable cities

Next to it, a new trend has emerged in building eco-cities for future sustainability. Eco-cities are eco-friendly cities in line with universal human development for economic sustainability. Eco-cities can lead a country towards a sustainable future. Among many countries, Saudi Arabia is building a fantastic array of eco-cities. The government is diversifying its economy and investing in establishing sustainable cities. Currently, three sustainable cities are being developed in Saudi Arabia: Line City, Golden Cube, and Octagon. These cities are the future of the developed world, where the opportunities and resources would be available for both present and succeeding generations.

  • Improving Health

Further, health is a primary factor for attaining a sustained future. Without good health, humanity cannot pass on to the next generation. For instance, infant mortality, ill health, and under-nourishment in a more significant chunk of the populace can never let a country develop or sustain its economy. Health, like all other factors, such as poverty alleviation and education, is crucial for a country’s sustainable future. 

4-Human development as the end of economic sustainability 

  • Intergenerational equity and justice

What our obligations to future generations is a question that answers intergenerational equity and justice. In this sense, sustainable development means making a non-declining welfare state over time. Amartya San, a political scientist, has argued in this context:

“It is an obligation on us to preserve the present-day economic opportunities (such as productive capacity) for the future, not necessarily to increase them.”

It can be seen as an interpretation of the demands of universalism, meaning that leaving the future with the opportunity to live a life as we have lived.

Critical analysis

Although human development as a means to achieve economic growth is an argument as old as the political economists of the 20th century, sustainable development is the brainchild of the 21st century. Human development for the sake of human development is actual development rather than human development for wealth accumulation. In a society where 20 per cent of people live a luxurious life and 80 per cent are deprived of capabilities and opportunities, it is implausible to measure the worth of human development in aggregates. Therefore, proper human development is sustained and all-encompassing, agreeing with universalism.


All the facts boil down to a single point human development can only help a country develop economic sustainability if used as a means and an end. It means human development leads to financial sustainability, which produces the next generation already. With this development approach, a country can establish economic sustainability by alleviating poverty, educating people, investing in their health, etc. A sustained economy guarantees the future, but today without keeping environmental safety in economic sustainability, human development is just a dream, nothing else.

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