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Middling Figures

Everyone in India thinks they are 'middle class' and almost no one actually is

Only 2% of Indians are actually middle income, according to a Pew survey.

In a country quite as large as India, it's hard to identify anything that actually counts as being in the "middle." Yet most of us claim we are middle-class, no matter where we fall on the spectrum, whether compared to the rest of India or the globe. As far as the Pew Research Center is concerned, all those stories about India's burgeoning middle-class have little to do with reality: India is, as it has always been, woefully poor.

A Pew Research Center study looking into the break-up of income levels across the world released last week offers a wake-up call for those familiar with headlines in the English press touting the promises of India's massive middle-class. The study, which looked at changes in income levels across the world's population, points out that the first decade of the 2000s saw a dramatic, historic reduction in global poverty. Yet, despite this, the actual number of people who could be considered middle-income remained under 15%.

The study divided the population in each country into five groups based on a family's daily per-capita consumption or income. The thresholds are based on various things, with $2 being the daily per capita income level under which people are globally considered poor, and $2-$10 fitting people in under the low-income category. As per this measure, the middle-class falls into those who earn between $10 and $20 a day. (As a reminder of how low this still is, the study reminds us that the poverty line in the United States, comes in at around $16 – on the upper end of what this report considers middle income).

A look at India's break-up, based on these parameters, would leave you asking where that celebrated middle-class actually is.


Up to 95% of India still qualifies as poor or low-income, the vast majority of India's 1.2 billion citizens. For the globe, the equivalent proportion is 71%. As far as middle-income Indians go, only 2% of the country actually falls into this zone, compared to 13% of the globe, which is itself a disappointing number.


"Although the poverty rate in India fell from 35% in 2001 to 20% in 2011, the share of the Indian population that could be considered middle income increased from 1% to just 3%," the report said. "Instead of a burgeoning middle class, India’s ranks of low-income earners swelled. Many of these were people hovering closer to $2 than $10 in daily income, and thus still a way from the transition to middle-income status."



As the graph shows, most of the Indians who left the poor category travelled into the low-income zone, but the mobility into higher classes proved to be much smaller. Indians are clearly some way away from achieving higher standards for the vast majority of the population, and have been completely eclipsed by its northern neighbour China, which saw its middle-income proportion go up from 3% in 2001 to 18% in 2011.


What makes it slightly more ironic is the share of Indians who call themselves middle class. Middle income and middle class aren't the same thing, of course, but one would expect a fair amount of overlap between the two categories. Yet research done by Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav based on a multi-year panel survey by the Centre for Advanced Study of India suggests that about half the Indians in practically any bracket – urban, rural, lowest-income, highest-income – all self-identify as middle class.


The Pew Research Study points out the essential problem with having such a broad definition for middle-class. Although we keep hearing about India's massive middle class, probably because so many Indians think they fall into the category, the reality is that only a tiny amount of Indians qualify to be in a very conservative middle-income category, and the gap in living standards between economically advanced nations and developing ones is not narrowing.

"The first decade of this century witnessed an historic reduction in global poverty and a near doubling of the number of people who could be considered middle income. But the emergence of a truly global middle class is still more promise than reality," the report said.

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Five foods that could be included in your balanced breakfast today

It has become a cliché to say that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, but like all clichés there is a ring of truth to it.

Starting the day with breakfast is a simple way to make a difference to the overall well-being of an individual. In spite of the several benefits of breakfast consumption, the phenomenon of skipping breakfast is widely prevalent, especially in an urban set-up where mornings are really rushed.

The ‘India Breakfast Habits Study’ has revealed that one in four urban Indians claim to skip breakfast and about 72% skimp by having a nutritionally inadequate breakfast. Isn’t it alarming? Over the years, numerous studies have demonstrated that eating breakfast has several health benefits and can impact future health of an individual. But given today’s fast-paced life, Indians are increasingly undermining the importance of a well-balanced breakfast.

So what makes for a balanced breakfast? A balanced breakfast should consist of foods from at least three essential food groups, e.g one serve of whole grains, one serve of dairy (milk or curd) or lean proteins and one serve of fruit or vegetables. It should provide essential nutrients like protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals besides energy.

Here are some nutrient-rich foods you could incorporate as part of your balanced breakfast:

1. Oats. Oats are cereal grains that are high in protein and are a great source of fibre, especially soluble fibre. Oats contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre which has cholesterol lowering effects and therefore considered heart healthy. It also provides some minerals like iron, magnesium and zinc.

2. Barley. Barley is one of the first cultivated grains in the world, dating back nearly 13,000 years. It has the distinction of having the highest amount of dietary fibre among the cereals. Barley is chewy with a distinct nutty flavor, and is a good source of B-complex vitamins like vitamin B1, B3, B6 and biotin as well as minerals like phosphorus and manganese. Barley is also low in fat, and scientific research has shown that consumption of barley can help in lowering blood cholesterol levels.

3. Wheat. Like barley, wheat too is among the world’s oldest cultivated grains, and a source of vegetable protein. Its easy availability makes it a vital ingredient in many dishes. Whole wheat is a good source of protein and is stocked with vitamin B1, B3 and B6 making it a healthy addition to one’s diet.

4. Dried fruits. Dried fruit is fruit that has had almost all of the water content removed through drying methods. The fruit shrinks during this process, leaving a small, energy-dense dried fruit. Dried fruits are a good source of micronutrients and antioxidants (phenols) in general. Raisins, for example, contain iron and magnesium that are essential for normal functioning of the body.

5. Nuts. Nuts provide healthy fats, protein and fibre. They also provide vitamins and minerals and are a versatile food that can be incorporated in various recipes. Different nuts are rich in different nutrients. Almonds, for example, provide fibre, calcium and vitamin E.

Kellogg’s Muesli with nutritious grains including wheat, barley and oats and delicious inclusions such as almonds and dried fruits (grains and inclusions differ for different variants) along with milk or curd can be a tasty, nourishing breakfast and a great way to start your day. To explore delicious variants, click here.

This article was produced on behalf of Kellogg’s Muesli by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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