As per the recent announcement by IMF, India is going to be the fastest growing economy in the year 2019. It is growing at a rate of 7.5% annually, overtaking China, which is anticipated to grow at a rate of 6.2%. Asia as a whole is anticipated to grow at 6.3%. It is projected that we will also surpass the United Kingdom in the World’s Largest Economy rankings this year.
This information does not truly reflect how a country is actually doing. GDP – Gross Domestic Product, tells us about how well a country is doing economically as a whole. But it does not indicate the standard of living of the people. To understand that whether the fruits of the economic growth has been passed on to the poorer sections of the society, an attempt has been made to compare factors like unemployment rate, literacy rate, infant mortality rate, death rate and number of people below the poverty line in the period 2012-17. By looking at these indicators; other than the GDP of our country, we can see if our country is actually getting better as our economy is growing.
Unemployment Rate: It is the percentage of unemployed people (those who are willing and have the ability to work but are unable to get work) of the total work force. In 2012, 3.62% of the total working population was unemployed, while in 2017 the unemployment rate was 3.52% of the total workforce. At first, this looks like an improvement. But if we observe closely, the workforce is actually growing at the rate of 1.2 crores per year and only 55 lakh jobs are created per year, then this decrease in the rate of unemployment does not look all that great.
Literacy Rates: The literacy rate is the percentage of literate people in the whole country of the total population of the country. In 2011, according to the Census, the literacy rate of India was 69.3%. If you take out the average of the State-wise literacy rate of 2017, then it comes out to be around 79.6%. There has been a significant jump in the literacy rates of India, of which we should be all proud of. But this rate is not uniform throughout the country. While Kerala has a literacy rate of 93.91%, Bihar’s literacy rate is only 63.82%.
Infant Mortality Rates: It is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of children. The numbers fell down from 41.1 in 2012 to 32 in 2017. This is again an improvement over the last few years. But, it is very high when compared with countries like Japan (which has the lowest infant mortality rate) of 1.9 and Sweden at 3.45 in 2017. India’s rank in the world’s list of Infant Mortality Rate is 127 and 12th amongst the 52 lower-middle income nations.
Death Rates: The number of deaths per 1,000 people is known as the death rate of that country. The death rate in India only changed slightly from 7.43 in 2012 to 7.3 in 2017. Again, this may seem like a good improvement. But again, it is actually quite high when compared to Qatar and UAE where the rate is 1.53% and 1.97% respectively.
People below Poverty Line: In 2012, 22% of our total population was under poverty. The Planning Commission has redefined the poverty line, wherein people earning below Rs. 32 in rural areas and Rs. 47 in the urban areas per day are considered as lying below the poverty line. This adds 93.7 million more people to the list of the people under the poverty line, i.e., it went from 269 million in 2011-12 to 363 million in 2015.
There are similar indicators which tell us about how a country is actually doing in various fields, for e.g., in terms of agriculture and rural development, climate change, energy and mining, gender, health, etc. Some of them are:
• Access to electricity: In 2016, 84.5% of the total population had access to electricity, whereas, in 2015, 88% of the population had access, which means there has been a decrease in the percentage of people having access to electricity.
• Food Production Index: This measures the food crops which have been grown, having a nutritional value and is edible (excluding tea and coffee). From 2012 to 2016, the index grew from 133.8 to 144.4, which is good news.
• Income Gap: India’s top 1% actually holds 58% of the whole wealth of India. During the period of 2006-15, the income of ordinary workers has only increased by 2%, whereas in 2017 a billionaire was created every 2 days. The income gap has worsened.
• CO2 Emissions: The per capita emission (emission by every person) was only 1.8 tonnes in 2017 whereas the world average is 4.2 tonnes, though India’s emissions increased by 4.6% in the same year.
Though we are the fastest growing economy in the world, the poorer sections of our society do not have much to cheer about as the fruits of this growth do not reach them. It may be very ambitious for us to expect all the sections of the society in the country grow at the same rate and to make rapid strides in all aspects of the economy. Poverty, income gap, infant mortality rate, etc may not be fully eradicated, and access to electricity and literacy rates cannot be 100% in the next couple of years. But, it is not an impossible task. We have already gotten better in many aspects and are sure to improve in other aspects as well. A constant growth rate of 7.5% over a period of 10 to 15 years would reduce the disparities in the economy to a large extent and the poorer sections of the society would surely be benefited by the growth.
India Food Production Index – World Data Atlas
Literacy Rates in India in 2017-2018 – Pincode India
India – World Bank Data
“Income Inequality Gets Worse;…” – Business Today
“Why India’s CO2 emissions grew strongly in 2017?” – CarbonBrief
“New Poverty line: Rs 32 for rural India, Rs. 47 for Urban India” – DownToEarth
“India 12th among 52 lower middle-income nations having highest infant mortality rates” – The Economic Times
“India’s workforce is growing – how can job creation keep pace?” – World Economic Forum