The rapid economic growth of India and China in recent decades is leading to a decline in global inequality, according to a new analysis that crunches and harmonises figures from the 1820s to the 2000s to track long-term trends in global well-being.
The analysis, titled ‘How Was Life? Global Well-Being Since 1820’, published on Thursday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), goes beyond GDP figures and provides historical evidence on 10 dimensions of well-being, including gender, education and health.
The analysis charts trends for 25 countries, 8 world regions and the world economy as a whole. The composite indicator of well-being presented in this report indicates that progress in well-being has been widespread since the early 20th century, with the possible exception of Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1820, the richest countries were about five times as wealthy as the poorest countries, whereas they were more than thirty times as well-off in 1950. This divergence was driven by a process of rapid industrialisation.
“Only recently, as a result of the rapid growth experienced by China and India, has global income inequality begun to decline”, the report says.
Tracing historic trends of income inequality, the report says that India joined the group of outliers by maintaining a very low level of slightly increasing income inequality until around the Second World War.
There have been significant improvements in life expectancy in recent decades, as evident both from the individual country trends and the overall world average.
Since 1960, countries such as Afghanistan and India, which were characterised by lagre gender differences in life expectancy, have almost closed the gap, it says.
On gender inequalities in education, the report says that Kenya and India made substantial progress in catching up with developed countries in terms of gender equality. However, it adds that ‘missing girls and the associated skewed sex ratios remain a major challenge for China and India’.