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Income inequality rises in India: IMF

February 04, 2014 13:59 IST

The net worth of India's billionaire community has soared 12-fold in 15 years - enough to eliminate absolute poverty twice over in the country, where income inequality is also on the rise, according to the IMF.

Seven out of ten people in the world today live in countries where inequality has increased over the past three decades, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on Monday.

"We are all keenly aware that income inequality has been rising in most countries.

"In India, the net worth of the billionaire community increased 12-fold in 15 years, enough to eliminate absolute poverty in this country twice over," she said while delivering the Richard Dimbleby Lecture in London, according to the copy of the speech made available by the IMF.

The richest 85 people in the world own the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world's population, Lagarde said.

"In the US, inequality is back to where it was before the Great Depression, and the richest 1 per cent captured 95 per cent of all income gains since 2009, while the bottom 90 per cent got poorer," Lagarde said, ruing that in the past, economists have underestimated the importance of inequality.

Observing that over the next three decades, the world's population will get much larger and much older, she said that in 30 years time, there will be about two billion more people on the planet, including three quarters of a billion people over the age of 65.

By 2020, for the first time ever, there will be more old people over 65 than children under five, Lagarde said. "The geographical distribution will also change - young populations in regions like Africa and South Asia will increase sharply, while Europe, China, and Japan will age and shrink.

"In the coming decades, we expect India to surpass China, and Nigeria to surpass the United States, in terms of population. And both China and India will start ageing in the near future.

"This can create problems on both ends of the demographic spectrum - for youthful countries and for greying countries. Right now, the young countries are seeing a 'youth bulge', with almost three billion people - half the global population - under 25. This could prove a boon or a bane, a demographic dividend or a demographic time bomb," Lagarde said. 

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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