A Pew Research report from March — before the second wave of COVID-19 cases — suggests that India’s poverty rate had risen to 9.7 percent in 2020, up from January 2020 forecast of 4.3 percent.
People shop at a crowded marketplace in Mumbai, India (File image: Reuters/Niharika Kulkarni)
The novel coronavirus pandemic may have shrunk India’s middle-class population by 32 million and driven an additional 75 million people below the poverty line in 2020, according to a Pew Research Centre report published in March even before the second wave of COVID-19 in the country.
The Pew Research report based on an analysis of World Bank data suggested that China, in comparison, fared much better with the number of people in the middle-income tier decreasing by only 10 million. China’s poverty level remained virtually unchanged in 2020, the report suggests.
“Given that India and China also account for more than a third of the global population, with about 1.4 billion people each, the course of the pandemic in these two countries – and how each recovers – will have a substantial effect on changes in the distribution of income at the global level,” the report noted.
Before the pandemic, it was anticipated that 99 million people in India would have belonged to the global middle class in 2020. However, in the first year of the pandemic, this number was estimated to have been 66 million.
The number of poor in India was projected to have reached 134 million in the first year of the pandemic – more than double of the 59 million-figure expected before the recession triggered by the pandemic.
The research report suggests that India’s poverty rate rose to 9.7 percent in 2020, up from the January 2020 forecast of 4.3 percent.
The second wave of the pandemic is expected to make the situation worse. Mahesh Vyas, CEO of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, told the Business Standard that more than 97 percent of India’s population had gotten poorer compared to where they were in terms of income a year ago and that there was a “steady fall in salaried jobs”.