The wealthiest top 1 per cent of India's population earned 21.7 per cent of the national income, while the bottom 50 per cent of the population received only 13 per cent of the national income, as per the latest edition of the World Inequality Report.
Authored by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the report termed India as a "poor and very unequal country, with an affluent elite".
Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, who authored the foreword for the report, called India as "amongst the most unequal countries in the world", while linking such rising inequality to loosening of state control, and the growth of privatisation.With the gap increasing over the decades, the top 10 per cent in India was found to receive a whopping 57 per cent share of national income last year.
The average national income of an adult Indian in 2021 was at ₹2,04,200, as per the report. Compared to this, the bottom 50 per cent only earned an average amount of ₹53,610 during the year.
Wealth inequality has also seen some stark changes in the past four decades.
While the top 1 per cent and bottom 50 per cent had almost similar amount of wealth in 1980 (12 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively), today the difference is severe - the top 1 percent now owns 33 per cent of the national wealth, while the bottom 50 per cent's share has dropped down to a meagre 6 per cent.
The top 10 per cent's share of national wealth is currently at an all time high of 64 per cent, despite the pandemic.
India's middle class was also found to be relatively poor, owning less than 30 per cent of the national wealth
The average wealth of an Indian household was reported to be at ₹9,83,010. Compared to this, the report said that the bottom 50 per cent owned "almost nothing", with an average wealth of ₹66,280.
Looking through the graphs on wealth and income distribution, the 1980's appear as an obvious turning point.
Remarking on this matter, the report added that the policies on liberalisation and deregulation in the decade has led to "one of the most extreme increases in income and wealth inequality observed in the world".
In terms of gender inequality, the report found India to be amongst the worst countries in the region.
While the entirety of Asia (excluding China) saw its female labour have an average income share of 21 per cent, India's was found to be much lower at 18 per cent. This is despite an increase of eight percentage points since 1991.
The difference in personal carbon footprint by income level was also found to be extreme and severe.
The top 10 per cent had an average per capita carbon emission of 8.81 metric tonnes in 2021. Comparatively, the bottom 50 per cent had a nearly negligible average per capita carbon emission of 0.97 metric tonnes this year.
This figure jumped up significantly with income level - the top 1 per cent had a whopping 32.4 metric tonnes of average per capita carbon emission in 2021.
"While the top 1% has largely benefited from economic reforms, growth among low and middle income groups has been relatively slow and poverty persists," the report added.