What is ‘Inclusive’ Growth?

A little while ago I wrote a post arguing that recent strong growth here in Tanzania has not been inclusive. Poverty prevails because growth has not benefited the poor as much as it has benefited the rich. Growth has not, lamentably, been inclusive.

Inclusiveness is a concept that is popping up more and more in policy debates. The growing calls for inclusive growth represent a welcome move away from the growth-only paradigm that was suffocating development discourse. But what does it really mean?

Here’s the OECD talking about how to make growth inclusive in the UK and here’s (PDF) the World Economic Forum’s “Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2015”. There is even, bizarrely, a MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth & Financial Inclusion.

Inclusive growth is actually rather a slippery concept, with a universally accepted definition proving exasperatingly elusive. Every institution and commentator under the sun seems to define it slightly differently, as shown in this handy table I’ve taken from a working paper (PDF) by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth:

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 20.44.20.png

In another post, I argued for a multidimensional definition of poverty. As inclusive growth is deeply linked to poverty, I believe it also needs to be defined in multidimensional terms. And so, it seems fair to say it is both an economic and a social concept, intimately related to a number of human and social development indicators as well as to the general promotion of fairness and opportunity in the pursuit of a broadly egalitarian society. I realise this is rather a long-winded definition, but some concepts demand long-winded definitions.

Long before it was fashionable, India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru eloquently captured the essence of inclusive growth. In his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech to the Constituent Assembly on the eve of Independence in 1947, Nehru spoke of India’s quest for the “ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity”. When Tanzania achieves this kind of development, then perhaps we can say that it’s growth has been truly inclusive.





One thought on “What is ‘Inclusive’ Growth?

  1. I agree that definitions of inclusive growth need to be multi-dimensional. For me, for growth to be inclusive it needs to begin with equal opportunities for all in education. If that is truly in place then other dimensions will follow; without it, growth at best can only be exclusive and temporary. How long, I wonder, until the UK gets this right… or at least reverses the current trend toward greater exclusivity…?


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