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The ambiguous role of alcohol in economic and social development

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An increased and industrialized alcohol supply in a developing society is usually assumed to have positive effects on economic development, although it may be recognized that the effects on public health and order will be negative. There has been little attention to the potential for negative effects on the economic side. This paper directs attention to such factors as unemployment for cottage producers (often female heads of household) and reduced industrial employment as highly-automated "turnkey" brewers are installed. On the other hand, changes in the mode of production of alcoholic beverages may have little impact on the much larger work-force involved in serving or selling alcohol in retail trade. The net contribution of an increased and industrialized alcohol supply in terms of economic development is unclear, but industrialization and development bring with them increased demands for attention and sobriety, e.g. in motorized traffic and on the production line, which increased drinking may undercut. Decisions by international development agencies on investment in alcohol production and distribution should take account of both the positive and negative impacts on economic development as well as on public health. In line with this, the World Bank has recently decided to invest in alcohol industry projects only when there is a strong positive development impact and the project is "consistent with public health issues and social policy concerns".
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs, Stockholm University, Sweden 2: Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, San Rafael CA, USA

Publication date: 2000-12-01

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