Inequality among caste

Context: India has made remarkable strides in lifting millions out of multidimensional poverty, yet inequality among various caste groups persists.

Despite the Constitution’s abolition of caste discrimination and the launch of affirmative action programmes, the shadow of caste continues to shape economic realities.

Disparities in consumption patterns among different socio-economic groups

According to the World Inequality Lab: 

  • In 2022-23, while STs accounted for 9 per cent of the population, their consumption share stood at only 7 per cent. 
  • Similarly, SCs constituted 20 percent of the population and their consumption share was 16 per cent
  • The OBCs accounted for 43 per cent of the population, their consumption share of 41 percent. 
  • General category accounted for 28 percent of the population, their consumption share of 36 percent. 

These findings underscore the persistent disparities in the distribution of consumption across various social groups. Despite minimal fluctuations over time, SCs and STs consistently lag behind people from the General and OBC categories.

  • The overall Gini coefficient decreased from 0.359 in 2017-18 to 0.309 in 2022-23, indicating a reduction in overall income inequality during this period by 0.050. 

Key Areas Impacted by caste:

  • Employment opportunities: Discrimination in hiring and occupational segregation often restrict lower-caste individuals to menial and low-paying jobs.
  • Education: While affirmative action policies have improved access to education for lower-caste individuals, disparities in the quality of education received still exist. Between 2017-18 and 2021-22, the SC category growth in number of students enrolled in higher educational institutes is 25.43% (ministry of education report).
    • Higher dropout rates among lower-caste students are attributed to economic pressures, social discrimination, and a lack of support systems. Over 8,000 students from the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, OBC, and minority communities have dropped out of technical institutes, including IITs, IIMs, IIITs, NITs, and IISERs, in the last five years up to 2023 (Ministry of Education).
  • Income disparities: On average, individuals from lower castes earn less than their upper-caste counterparts. SCs/STs earned significantly lesser than their non-SC/ST counterparts. (Deshpande and Sharma)
  • Entrepreneurship: Lower-caste entrepreneurs often face difficulties in securing loans and investments due to discriminatory practices by financial institutions.

Efforts should concentrate on augmenting income generation and consumption abilities among the lower deciles, particularly within the ST and SC communities. This is also essential for fostering social harmony and economic stability across society. Continued monitoring of trends and targeted interventions addressing specific socio-economic challenges faced by different groups are necessary to ensure sustained progress towards greater economic equity.

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