Passers-by in a slum in New Delhi, India, where the population lives mainly from garbage collection

Social situation Extreme wealth and extreme poverty

India is a country of extreme contrasts: there are booming centres like Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore, with a growing number of enormously rich families, but there are also millions of people living in extreme poverty. For example, 15 per cent of Indians are undernourished. Around one third of all children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth as a result of chronic undernourishment or malnutrition. Child mortality is higher in India than in its neighbours Nepal and Bangladesh, both of which are counted among the least developed countries (LDCs) in the world. The 2021 Global Hunger Index describes the situation in India as “serious”.

Public spending on education and health is still insufficient to meet the needs of the entire population. The services offered are also often still of poor quality. There are also shortcomings in the country’s infrastructure. A large proportion of the population have no or only inadequate access to basic services like water and sanitation, decent housing, waste disposal and transport. For example, about 30 per cent of the Indian population do not have their own toilet.

The Indian population has almost doubled over a period of 40 years. About a quarter of the people living in India are younger than 15 and about 45 per cent are younger than 25 years of age. This demographic development offers huge potential for economic growth and increased incomes – but only if it is possible for India to actually make use of this potential by providing more education and more employment.

Right now almost 90 per cent of workers are employed in the informal sector, which means that they are not able to get occupational health insurance or any kind of wage compensation. Only a very small percentage of them are able to afford treatment from doctors outside the at times patchy basic health services provided by the public health system. There is also a lack of high-quality vocational training programmes that are accessible for all population groups and also have social recognition.

As at: 02/08/2022