On paper, India’s economy has had a fantastic year. Profits of companies have doubled. A vibrant middle class, built over the past few decades, is now shelling out so much on movie tickets, cars, real estate and vacations that economists call it post-pandemic “revenge spending.” Yet even as India is projected to have the fastest growth of any major economy this year, the rosy headline figures do not reflect reality for hundreds of millions of Indians. The growth is still not translating into enough jobs for the waves of educated young people who enter the labour force each year. A far larger number of Indians eke out a living in the informal sector, and they have been battered in recent months by high inflation, especially in food prices. The disconnect is a result of India’s uneven growth, which is powered by the voracious consumption of the country’s upper strata but whose benefits often do not extend beyond the urban middle class. The pandemic has magnified the divide, throwing tens of millions of Indians into extreme poverty while the number of Indian billionaires has surged. What does this tell us? It tells us that in order for us to truly understand if an economy is improving, we must look at it from a number of perspectives. Although companies are growing, the people of India have suffered recently, telling us that the economy has not developed as much as it may have looked.
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