Chart of the Week Feb 26, 2021: Exacerbation of Income Inequality in India during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Click for enlarged image | Graphic by Lee Shu En

Summary: 

The COVID-19 pandemic did not just cause a healthcare crisis but also an economic crisis, the impact of which is likely to sustain for years to come. The crisis made Indian billionaires richer by increasing their wealth by more than one-third, and simultaneously put around 400 million informal workers at risk of falling deeper into poverty.[1] This week’s chart uses data from Oxfam to depict India’s inequality gap, which was further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Highlights: 

  • While most Indians faced loss of jobs and livelihood, the wealth of the richest man in India – Mukesh Ambani – grew by 72% to approximately US$78 billion (₹5837 billion).  
  • Around 24% of India’s population earned under US$40 (₹3000) per month during the lockdown period.  
  • To put things into perspective, it would take 48 million persons working at US$0.25 (₹18.75) per hour to earn the same amount of money that Mukesh Ambani earned per hour during the lockdown, which was US$12 million (₹900 million). 
  • With over 90 percent of the workforce engaged in the informal sector, the long-term consequences of the exacerbating income inequality in India can be dire. 

[1] Refer to the Oxfam report ‘The Inequality Virus – India Supplement 2021’ for more details (https://www.oxfamindia.org/knowledgehub/workingpaper/inequality-virus-india-supplement-2021). 

By GUPTA, Sumedha 

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