Inderscience Publishers

Sustainable development, gender inequality and human resource capital

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Human resources are central to economic development and can be increased in value and productivity by investment in human beings, for example in their education and health. But for a considerable period in the past, economists stressed the importance of the accumulation of man-made physical capital for economic growth and development, to the neglect of human resource capital. Nevertheless, in the second half of the 20th century the importance of human resource capital (particularly education) for economic growth came to be recognised. Nevertheless, the implications of the formation of human resource capital for sustainable development were given virtually no in-depth attention but it is important to address this matter, as is done here. The nature and broad categories of capital are outlined and particular attention is given to human resource capital. While the formation of human resource capital can support sustainable development, it also poses a challenge since this "formation" draws on or transforms natural resource and environmental capital. Using a neo-Malthusian model, direct routes by which investment in human resource capital may promote sustainable development are outlined. Both improved education and health are likely, for example, to reduce population growth and this is likely to have favourable consequences for sustainable development. The provision of sufficient human capital for females is shown to be crucial in this respect. Nonetheless, it must also be recognised that difficulties (some of which are outlined) exist for sustainably developing human resources. It is argued that greater equality in the distribution of human resource capital, both within nations and globally, would make a significant contribution to sustainable development. The "basic needs" approach has considerable merit both from the point of view of justice and as a contributor to sustainable development.

Keywords: education, environment, gender inequality, human resource capital, knowledge, sustainable development

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