India’s voters are more optimistic than despairing about their personal financial well-being; however, their hopeful perception of their own condition, or of the economy as a whole, is not extraordinary, perception data gathered by Lokniti-CSDS as part of a 19-state survey conducted in the second and third weeks of January show.
The mixed signals from voters on economic issues come ahead of the last full Budget of the Narendra Modi government, as a clutch of crucial state Assembly elections approach, and as the country recovers from the disruption of demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The survey shows people’s assessment of their household’s financial condition has improved compared to May 2017, when CSDS’s last such national survey was conducted — 48% thought so, as opposed to 37% last year. The number, however, was similar to the results of two previous surveys, in 2009 and 2014, on both of which occasions 45% of respondents had said their household economic conditions had improved during the last three-four years. What’s more, in 2009, for every person who said her economic condition had deteriorated, there were four who said it had improved. That ratio is now down to 1:3. One could argue that the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same.
Although Indians might be reporting an improvement in their financial condition, they are, at the same time, more dissatisfied with the state of their household’s finances than they were in the past. In the current survey, 41% reported dissatisfaction with their economic condition; back in 2009, this figure was 30%.
Voters’ assessment of the state of the Indian economy, has, however, improved compared to four years ago. In early 2014, just one in five (19%) had rated the country’s economy as being in a good condition. Now, over one in every four (27%) does the same. The largest percentage of people (40%) in the current survey said the economy was in a “so-so (theek-thaak)” condition — neither good nor bad.
Nearly three in every ten voters (28%) who took part in the survey spontaneously chose unemployment as the biggest issue in the country. Significantly, this figure has jumped 15 percentage points in less than five years — it was 13% in 2013.
Nearly half (49%) of respondents across the country said it had become more difficult to find jobs in their areas in the last three-four years. One in two respondents from the villages (50%) attested to the increasingly shrinking job opportunities rural areas. Responses from the big cities with 5-10 lakh population reflected the anxiety the most — as many as 61% said things had turned worse in the last three-four years.
Written by Ananya Singh, Ankita Barthwal, Asmita Aasaavari, Sanjay Kumar, Shreyas Sardesai (The authors are with Lokniti-CSDS)
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