India Among Most Unequal Nations; Top 1% Hold 22% Of National Income: Inequality Report

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New Delhi: India is now among the most unequal countries in the world, according to the findings of the latest report titled ‘World Inequality Report 2022’.

Stating India’s position as a ‘poor and very unequal country, with an affluent elite’, the report said the top 1 percent of the population holds more than one-fifth of the total national income in 2021 and the bottom half just 13 percent.

The report was authored by Lucas Chancel, co-director of the World Inequality Lab, and coordinated by several experts, including French economist Thomas Piketty, according to the news agency PTI.

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What are the key findings of the report?

The report pointed out that the average national income of the Indian adult population is Rs 204,200. While the bottom 50 percent earns Rs 53,610, the top 10 percent earns more than 20 times (Rs 1,166,520).

“While the top 10 percent and top 1 percent hold respectively 57 percent and 22 percent of total national income, the bottom 50 percent share has gone down to 13 percent,” the report states.

The average household wealth in India stands at Rs 983,010, according to the report. It also said gender inequalities in India are very high.

“The female labor income share is equal to 18 percent. This is significantly lower than the average in Asia (21 percent, excluding China),” the report said, adding that this value is one of the lowest in the world, slightly higher than the average share in the Middle East (15 percent).

What are the reasons behind inequality?

The report observed that the deregulation and liberalization policies implemented since the mid-1980s have led to “one of the most extreme increases in income and wealth inequality observed in the world”.

How do other countries fare?

The report pointed out that in 2021, after three decades of trade and financial globalisation, global inequalities remain extremely pronounced.

The world map of inequalities reveals that national average income levels are poor predictors of inequality — among high-income countries, some are very unequal (such as the US), while others are relatively equal (Sweden).

“The same is true among low- and middle-income countries, with some exhibiting extreme inequality (Brazil and India), somewhat high levels (China), and moderate to relatively low levels (Malaysia, Uruguay),” it said.

The report observed that income and wealth inequalities have been on the rise nearly everywhere since the 1980s, following a series of deregulation and liberalization programs that took different forms in different countries.

“The rise has not been uniform: certain countries have experienced spectacular increases in inequality (including the US, Russia, and India) while others (European countries and China) have experienced relatively smaller rises,” it said.

“They are about as great today as they were at the peak of Western imperialism in the early 20th century,” it said.

Lucas Chancel, the lead author of the report, said the COVID crisis has exacerbated inequalities between the very wealthy and the rest of the population.

“Yet, in rich countries, government intervention prevented a massive rise in poverty, this was not the case in poor countries. This shows the importance of social status in the fight against poverty,” he said.

(With PTI Inputs)

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