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Home Economic Development Physical Quantity of Life Index (PQLI)


Physical Quantity of Life Index (PQLI):


Definition and Explanation:


Morris D. Morris developed "Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI)". He included three indicators like life expectancy, infant mortality rate and literacy rate. For each indicator he devised a scale which includes the numbers ranging from 1 to 100 where 1 represents the worst performance by any country and 100 is the best performance. For life expectancy, the upper limit of 100 was assigned to 77 years which was achieved, by Sweden in 1973, and the lower limit of 1 was assigned to 28 years which was the life expectancy of Guinea-Bissau in i960.


Within these limits each country's life expectancy figure is ranked from 1 to 100. As the midway between the upper and lower limits of 77 and 28 years is 52 years will be assigned a rating of 50. Similarly, for infant mortality, the upper limit was set at 9 per thousand was achieved by Sweden in 1973 and the lower limit at 229 per thousand was achieved by Gabon in 1950. The minimum rate regarding IMR was rated 100, while the highest IMR was given the scale of 1. Whereas the literacy rates, measured as percentages from 1 to 100, provide their own direct scale. Once a country's performance in life expectancy, infant mortality and literacy has been rated on the scale of 1 to 100, the composite index for the country is calculated by averaging the three ratings, giving equal weight to each. We present a table:


PQLI Table/Schedule:



Per Capita GNP in Dollars






Saudi Arabia








Sri Lanka



Cost Rica


































The above statistics show that the countries which have low per capita, GNP also have low PQLI. Whereas the countries have higher per capita GNP also have higher PQLI. But in certain cases, the reverse has been observed i.e., as the case of Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have higher GNP per capita but lower PQLI. The PQLI and per capita GNP of Pakistan were 40 and 349 respectively, whereas it was 42 and 253 in case of India. Cost Rica which is in the middle income group has a higher PQLI of 89. There are so many countries like Angola and Zimbabwe, China and India Taiwan and Iraq etc., are having at least similar incomes but they differ heavily in respect of PQLI. The above table also shows that the significant improvements in the basic quality of life can be achieved even before rise in GNP per capita. Again, the higher level of per capita GNP is not a guarantee of a better quality of life.


The PQLI method is superior because it is devoid of those flaws which exist in per capita GNP measure. The PQLI measure keeps in view the welfare considerations, and it attaches the fruits of economic growth with human betterment. The GNP measure is criticized that it does not throw light oh the distribution of income, whereas the PQLI also analyses the nature of distribution of income as the more life expectancy, decrease in infant mortality rate (IMR) and increase in literacy rates can become possible due to better distribution of income. The PQLI can also be used like GNP method to make comparisons between countries.


But PQLI is objected on the ground that it is a limited measure, it has not included so many social and psychological properties which have been identified by the measure of quality of life, as the case of security, justice and human rights. This is the reason that Population Crisis Committee and the International Human Suffering Index formulated in 1987.


Indicators of PQLI:


This index has been employed to measure the difference in living. In such index of suffering 10 following indicators have been included:


(i) income, (ii) inflation, (iii) chances of new jobs, (iv) pressure of population in urban areas, (v) the infant mortality rates, (vi) nutritional level, (vii) clean water, (viii) use of energy, (ix) adult education, (x) personal freedom.


On the basis of this measure the highest 'Sufferings' was observed in case of Angola and Afghanistan, while the best living conditions were observed in case of the countries like Switzerland, Germany and Luxemburg. The PQLI is also objected that it gives equal weight-age to the indicators like IMR and life expectancy.

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Physical Quantity of Life Index (PQLI)
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