India is in the headlines once again as one of the most unequal countries in the world, whether one measures inequality on the basis of income or wealth. According to the Oxfam’s latest report released on Monday- India’s richest 12 million people have more than four-times the wealth of 953 million people.
That means 1% richest Indians have more than 400% wealth as compare to bottom 70 per cent of the country’s population. This figure alone enough to explain the widening gap between rich and poor in India.
According to the New World Wealth, India is the second-most unequal country in the world-with millionaires controlling 54% of its wealth. With a total individual wealth of $5,600 billion, it’s among the 10 richest countries in the world – but largest number of poor people still lives in India.
In India, the richest 1% own 56% of the country’s wealth, according to the latest data from Credit Suisse. The richest 5% own 71.6%, while the top 10% have 79.3%. At the other end of the pyramid, the poorer half jostles for a mere 4.1% of national wealth.
What’s more, things are getting better for the rich. The Credit Suisse data shows that India’s richest 1% owned just 36.8% of the country’s wealth in 2000, while the share of the top 10% was 65.9%. Since then they have steadily increased their share of the pie. The share of the top 1% now exceeds 50%.
India is one of the most unequal countries in the world. It has one of the worst gaps between rich and the poor. The latest Oxfam report has revealed that 63 richest Indian billionaires have more wealth than the total national budget of India. The total national budget was Rs 2,784,200 crores (US$ 391.53 billion) in 2019.
Compare this with Japan, the most equal country in the world, where according to the report millionaires control only 22% of total wealth.
This is far worse than the United States, where the richest 1% own 37.3% of total wealth. But India’s richest are quickly catching up with Russia, where the top 1% owns a staggering 70.3% of the country’s wealth.
The neoliberal economic model and free market economic policies have helped the rich and billionaires to amass huge piles of wealth. The richest one percent in India now owns more assets and means of productions than ever before.
The state withdraws its role in the redistribution of the wealth in the society since 1990s. The state was use to impose higher taxes on higher earners. But since 1990s- the governments provided tax breaks to rich and big business and lowered the taxes. The privatisation process also handed over the public sector assets to billionaires. It concentrated the means of production and wealth in the hands of fewer rich people.
This in return increased the gap between the rich and poor in the society. The governments also reduce the spending on social programs and social security. The wages of workers were squeezed but at the same time the wages for top executives were increased.
The big share of this wealth amassed by the richest billionaires is the result of unpaid wages of wage labourers. For paying less to wage labourers- the billionaires increased their share in the wealth many times. The governments in last three decades helped these billionaires to super exploit the workers and natural resources to increase their profits to the levels never seen before.
The wage inequality has also arisen in last three decades. As per the report, it would take a female domestic worker 22,277 years to earn what a top CEO of a technology company makes in one year. With earnings pegged at Rs 106 per second, a tech CEO would make more in 10 minutes than what a domestic worker would make in one year.
It further said women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day – a contribution to the Indian economy of at least Rs 19,00,000 (19 lakh crore a year), which is 20 times the entire education budget of India in 2019 (Rs 93,000 crore).
Besides, direct public investments in the care economy of 2 per cent of GDP would potentially create 11 million new jobs and make up for the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, the report said. The report said that women and girls are among those who benefit the least from today’s economic system.
They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving.
It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy,” report further said.
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