Geographies in Depth

Why India's wealth isn't reaching women

Women collect stubble from a rice field in Gharaunda in the northern state of Haryana, India, October 9, 2018.  Picture taken October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RC1394A60C80

India has a large gender wealth disparity. Image: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RC1394A60C80

Suneera Tandon
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Gender Inequality

The distribution of wealth in India is highly asymmetric, and it’s decidedly tilted towards men.

Women own just between 20% and 30% of the $6 trillion (Rs73 lakh crore) overall household wealth in the country—much less than the global share of 40%. The results are part of the findings of Swiss multinational investment bank Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2018 (pdf), released yesterday (Oct 18.)

“…recent studies for Africa and India indicate a significantly lower women’s share, ranging between 20% and 30%. The wealth share in China is higher than in Africa or India, but below the level in Europe or North America,” the report noted.

Image: Global Wealth Report 2018

However, the report noted that among major economies, India has one of the highest proportions of female billionaires—18.6%. This merely mirrors the income inequalities that exist in the general population, as a whole.

Income divide

The Global Wealth Report is forthright about the income disparities that exist in India.

“While wealth has been rising in India, not everyone has shared in this growth… reflected in the fact that 91% of the adult population has wealth below $10,000. In fact, only 0.6% of the country’s adult population has a net worth over $100,000,” it said.

Image: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2018

The lopsided distribution of wealth comes even as India’s rapid economic growth over the last two decades has churned out scores of millionaires.

India added some 7,300 millionaires in the year till mid-2018. The number of millionaires now totals 3.43 lakh and is likely to increase to 5.26 lakh by 2023. India is also home to 3,400 ultra high net worth individuals (those with wealth over $50 million)—the sixth highest in the world, after the US, China, Germany, the UK, and Japan.

In the next five years, wealth in India is expected to grow by 8% annually to reach $8 trillion in 2023. This forecast for the annual rate of wealth creation is significantly higher than the rate recorded in the last 12 months.

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Modest growth

A weak rupee affected the wealth of Indian citizens over the last year.

The $6 trillion that Indian households cumulatively owned in mid-2018 is just a modest 2.6% increase from a year ago. Wealth per adult also remained stagnant at $7,020, mainly due to a rupee depreciation of 6% versus the dollar in the year.

In contrast, global wealth rose by 4.6% to $317 trillion in the year till mid-2018, while wealth per adult grew by 3.2%, according to the report.

It will take a while for India’s wealth to get to the level of more mature economies, Credit Suisse noted.

“The total wealth in India increased five-fold between 2000 and 2018, reaching $6 trillion in 2018. Despite this remarkable increase and despite having four times the population of the United States, total wealth in India is comparable to the level for the United States 90 years ago. We expect it to reach $8 trillion in real terms by 2023, the level achieved by the United States in 1944.”

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Related topics:
Geographies in DepthEquity, Diversity and Inclusion
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