Some developing nations produce only a single export crop or commodity, such as sugar or cocoa. Their economies depend on global demand for the cash crop or commodity. If demand weakens and prices drop, their economies suffer.
Civil wars and other conflicts hindered development in some countries. Countries in Central America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa have been devastated by civil wars. Military dictators or other authoritarian leaders spent huge sums on weapons and warfare instead of on education, housing, or health care. Corrupt leaders have looted natioanl treasuries and allowed a culture of bribery to thrive.
War has created millions of refugees living in camps both inside and outside their home countries. The loss of their labor has further hurt war-torn countries.
How did dependence on colonial rulers affect economic progress in the developing world?
In recent decades, hundreds of millions of people in the developing world have migrated from rural villages to urban centers. Urbanization has transformed the lives of people in the developing world just as it did in Europe and North America during the Industrial Revolution.
Women worked actively in independence movements. After independence, new constitutions granted equality to women, at least on paper. Although women still have less access to education than men, the gap has narrowed. Women are joining the work force in growing numbers and contributing their skills to their nations' wealth. In countries such as India, Argentina, and Liberia, women have served as heads of state. Still, women continued to shoulder a heavy burden of work both inside the home and in the workplace.
In traditional economies, children worked alongside parents, farming or herding to meet the family's needs. As modernization and urbanization have changed traditional life, families often move to cities and take whatever jobs they can. Because these jobs pay such low wages, poor families need their children to work in order for the family to survive. Children are sent to work in chemical or textiles factories, mines, workshops.
In Kolkata, India, a young boy works along with adults in a factory that produces gold jewelry. Many of the hundreds of goldsmiths in Kolkata employ children, who work 14 to 18 hours a day.
Worldwide, more than 160 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 work up to 12 hours or more a day. Some young children are chained to looms or other machines. Many children are forced to work full time as farm laborers.
International pressure has led to efforts to reduce child labor. Reformers have called for safer work environments and basic education for child workers. Although many countries have laws about child labor, these laws are often ignored.
Despite revolutionary changes brought by urbanization, many traditions remain strong. The major world religions and their offshoots still shape modern societies. Since the 1980s, religious revivals have swept many regions. Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu reformers have offered their own solutions to the problems of today's world. Some have been called fundamentalists, because they stress what they see as the fundamental, or basic, values of their religious. Many seek political power to oppose changes that undermine their valued religious traditions.