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Religious Beliefs Holding Back India’s Per Capita GDP; If India Turns More Secular, GDP Growth Will Be More Than Double In 30 Years: Report

In the World Values Survey, 90 per cent of Indian respondents stated that religion is either “very important” or “rather important” to them.

According to an IndiaSpend analysis of a new study titled ‘Religious Change Preceded Economic Change In The 20th Century‘, India’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 60 years could be more than double in only half the time, if the country rejects religious beliefs that contribute to growing casteism and gender inequalities.

Between 1958 and 2018, India’s GDP per annum grew 26 times, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol, Damian Ruck, told IndiaSpend, “This increase could have been higher if Indians were less rigid in their religious views.”

India ranks 66th among nations ranked by secularisation, and in the ranking for tolerance, it stands at 69. As per these ranks, India’s GDP growth rate should ideally be much higher than it already is. 

Ruck said, “Our model thinks that India should be around Rs 457,015 ($6500) per person richer than it actually is. What this suggests is something else is holding back the Indian economy but that is for Indian specialists to analyse.”

“If India were to reach secularisation levels seen in western Europe (like Germany, which was ranked 6th of 109 nations), then it could expect to see a Rs 70,175 ($1,000) increase in per capita GDP over 10 years, Rs 196,490 ($2,800) over 20 years and Rs 350,875 ($5,000) over 30 years,” he added.

The research reveals that dominant religious beliefs regarding women and marginalised castes are the two prominent reasons behind India’s slow GDP growth. Such beliefs limit the participation of these groups, depriving the economy of productive activity.

Women constitute only 27 per cent of total workforce. This is one of the lowest levels of participation in South Asian countries. Compared to other castes (9.7%), thrice as many people in the Scheduled Castes category (26.6%) find themselves in the lowest wealth bracket.

The gap in the earnings between male and female full-time employees in India is worse than in countries like South Africa, Chile and Brazil.

Andre Beteille, a Delhi University professor said, “Caste, kinship or family, either or all these can hamper economic progress if they impose restrictions.”

“As religions go, Islam and Christianity do not practice caste segregation but we see dalit converts call themselves dalit Christians and scheduled caste Muslims,” added Amaresh Dubey, a Jawaharlal Nehru University professor.

He also said, “by precluding a huge section of the population, women and scheduled caste people, from equal access to resources such as capital and know-how, in India, religion majorly impedes economic activity.”

In the World Values Survey, 90 per cent of Indian respondents stated that religion is either “very important” or “rather important” to them.

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