What’s it: Needs means requiring something because it is essential. For example, we need food, water, and shelter to sustain our survival. Without food, for example, we can die.
In the introduction to economics, we will find economists using two words: “needs and wants” together. Another aspect discussed is resources. Our needs and wants are infinite. Meanwhile, resources are finite. It then gives rise to scarcity, which is the foundation of economics.
Are needs the same as wants?
Needs are different from wants. If needs are essential, wants are less essential. Wants usually arises because we have limited resources. For example, our money is limited to fulfill all our needs and wants.
We need food, air, water, clothing, and shelter to survive. We also have a strong need for recreation and entertainment, but we may not realize it, and therefore, it is still our desire.
A want varies between individuals. It usually reflects our personal tastes and is often influenced by the resources we have and the culture in which we live. It can change because of our experiences, marketing, and others’ opinions.
What are some examples of needs?
In daily life, we have to fulfill physical needs. For example, we have to consume food and water to sustain our daily life. We must fulfill it every day, over and over again, throughout our lives. We also need clothing and shelter.
Such items are essential to our daily life. Without them, our survival is threatened, or we can’t do anything.
Take food as a good example. We may be able to live without food for days. But we can’t keep doing it forever. Without food, we will die. And when hungry, once we find food, we eat it hungrily.
On the other hand, we may not need a lot of food, but certainly, we need to eat.
In addition to the above items, protection, access to health care, and education are other examples. They are also essential for maintaining an adequate standard of living.
What is the difference between a need and a want?
Many people have wants beyond what are their basic survival needs. For example, many people buy smartphones even though they won’t eat them when they’re hungry. It does make a lot of things in their life easier. But it’s just a tool.
So what is the difference between a need and a want?
Needs are essential to our lives, but wants are not. We have to fulfill needs, but not with wants. We buy things like food and clothing to make ends meet. It must be a regular expense for us to be able to live and perform daily activities.
Meanwhile, buying goods to fulfill wants should not be a routine expense. It just helps us live more comfortably or maintain our image. It makes us enjoy life more even though we can still live without fulfilling it.
The smartphone above is an example. We can still live forever without it but not with food. Without eating, we die.
Then, depending on the type, consuming certain goods or services can be a need or a want. For example, food is our basic need, but eating in a fancy restaurant is a want. Without coming to the restaurant, we can still eat.
Take another example. We need to eat protein and vitamins. How we fulfill it is up to us. It can be a want or a need, depending on our resources.
For example, we can eat legumes or soy products to get protein. Buying them is a necessity. However, getting protein by eating meat may be a desire for some people because they do not have enough money to buy it.
Likewise, we can get vitamins and minerals by consuming fruits and vegetables. And, we can also get it by consuming cheese, which can be a desire because our money is limited.
What are the types of needs?
There are many ways to classify needs. In this article, I will discuss three categorizations: based on what Maslow proposed, their level of urgency, and their dimensions.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Maslow developed five levels of needs.
- Physiological needs such as food, water, and clothing. They are our most basic needs.
- Safety needs such as a safe home environment, financial well-being, and health security.
- Love and belonging needs such as friendship and family ties.
- Esteem needs are like the need to be recognized by others when we are successful.
- Self-actualization needs such as the need to be able to actualize our talents and skills.
The five needs above form a pyramid where the number five is at the top. We can only continue to meet higher-level needs when we have been able to adequately satisfy lower-level needs. For example, physiological needs are the most basic and are at the bottom. So then, we can only meet safety needs only if our physiological needs are met.
Primary, secondary, tertiary needs
We can classify needs based on how urgent they are in our lives. They are:
- Primary needs – basic needs. We must be able to fulfill them. Otherwise, it affects our survival. Examples are food, drink, clothing, and shelter.
- Secondary needs – additional needs. We fulfill them after we can fulfill primary needs. For example, after having a place to live, we need household furniture and cabinets. We also need a closet to put our clothes in.
- Tertiary needs – the least essential needs and arise when we have met the primary and secondary needs. For example, luxury homes, sports cars, branded clothes, vacations abroad are tertiary needs.
Physical vs. spiritual needs
Needs do not always have a physical dimension but also our psychology.
- Physical needs – related to our bodies. Food, water, and clothing are good examples.
- Emotional/spiritual needs – related to our psychological and spiritual needs, such as love and recognition from others. Meeting them makes us feel satisfied, safe, and at ease.
Are our needs static?
Needs don’t just vary between individuals. But, it is also constantly evolving and changing. In addition, it is influenced by factors such as social, environmental, economic, political, and cultural circumstances in which we live. So, the way we meet our needs is also different.
For example, in the past, in traditional societies, education was not a basic need. Instead, we rely on our own efforts to survive, such as hunting, farming, and raising livestock. It all does not require us to be educated and go to school.
But, in modern society, education has become a basic need – and therefore, in some countries, the government provides it for free to some degree. Moreover, going to school not only expands our knowledge and skills, but it is also a prerequisite for applying for jobs.
Thus, it is difficult to meet other needs such as food and clothing when not properly educated. Because without education, we will not get enough money.
What to read next
- What is the Difference Between Needs and Wants?
- Economic Problem: Definition and 3 Basic Questions
- Scarcity in Economics: Meaning and Explanation
- Economic Resources: Definition, Types
- Needs: Definition, Example, Type
- Wants: Definition and Examples
- Choices in economic: Meaning, Importance, Reasons
- Opportunity Cost: Meaning, Importance, Examples
- Economic Efficiency: Meaning, Prerequisites, Why It Matters
- How are Economic Resources Allocated?
- Why Are Economic Resources Scarce?
- Why is Money Not an Economic Resource?
- Does Scarcity Only Work For The Poor? What Causes Scarcity?
- What Are the Consequences of Scarcity in Economics?
- Three Basic Economic Questions and Resource Allocation