COVID-19 lockdown pushed 32 million Indians into poverty: Research

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The pandemic lockdown has pushed 32 million Indians out of the middle class, undoing years of economic gains, a report revealed, while job losses pushed millions into poverty.

The number of Indians in the middle class, or those earning between 700 to 1,400 rupees a day, shrunk by about 32 million, compared with the number that could have been reached in the absence of a pandemic, the US-based Pew Research Centre said.

Reuters reported that the year into the pandemic, the numbers of those in the middle class has shrunk to 66 million, down a third from a pre-pandemic estimate of 99 million, it added.

“India is estimated to have seen a greater decrease in the middle class and a much sharper rise in poverty than China in the COVID-19 downturn,” the Pew Research Centre said, citing the World Bank’s forecasts of economic growth.

Nearly 57 million people had joined the middle income group between 2011 and 2019, it added. In January last year, the World Bank forecast almost the same level of economic growth for India and China, at 5.8 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively, in 2020.

The Pew Centre estimated the number of poor people, with incomes of 145 rupees or less each day, has gone up by 75 million as the recession brought by the virus has clawed back years of progress.

A rise of nearly 10 per cent in fuel prices this year, job losses and salary cuts have further hurt millions of households, forcing many people to seek jobs overseas.

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