Children from a slum in India queue to get free food after the government eased a nationwide lockdown on Covid-19 in New Delhi on June 15, 2020.

Prakash Singh | AFP | Getty Images

Around 75 million people in India fell into poverty last year as a result of the pandemic-triggered economic recession, compared to what would have been without the outbreak, an analysis by the Pew Research Center found Thursday.

That number for India represents nearly 60% of the global poverty increase in 2020, the analysis found. It defined the poor as people who live on $ 2 or less a day.

India has experienced one of the largest Covid-19 outbreaks in the world. As of Friday, the country had reported a total of 11.51 million infections – just behind the US and Brazil – and over 159,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The International Monetary Fund forecast that the Indian economy will shrink 8% in the fiscal year ending this month before growing 11.5% in the next fiscal year from April.

The rise in poverty in India “is leading to multi-year progress on this front,” wrote Rakesh Kochhar, lead researcher at the Pew Research Center, in a report.

From 2011 to 2019, the number of poor people in India fell from 340 million to 78 million, he said in the report. Without the pandemic, this number would have fallen further to 59 million last year, but according to the analysis, it is expected to rise to 134 million.

Growth in the country’s middle class has also been hampered. The middle income, defined as $ 10.01 to $ 20 per day, grew in India from $ 29 million to $ 87 million between 2011 and 2019 – and is expected to drop to $ 66 million in 2020 due to the Covid recession, said Kochhar.

Smaller impact in China

Like India, China has a large population of around 1.4 billion people. However, according to the Pew Research Center, the poverty impact of the pandemic in China was much smaller.

China’s economy grew 2.3% last year and is expected to grow 8.1% this year, according to the latest IMF forecast. It was the only major economy to grow in 2020 – and that helped keep poverty “practically unchanged,” Kochhar said.

The analysis on India and China accompanied the Pew Research Center report on how the Covid-19 outbreak affected income levels around the world.

Globally, another 131 million people became poor due to the global recession last year, compared to what it would have been if the pandemic hadn’t happened, the research firm said.

“Given that India and China, each with around 1.4 billion people, make up more than a third of the world’s population, the course of the pandemic in these two countries – and how each recovers – will have a significant impact on changes in distribution of income on a global scale, “it said.