Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

Poverty reduction lessons from China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Agri-GDP


The United Nations latest report, “Population Prospects” forecasts that India will surpass China’s population by 2023, reaching 1.5 billion by 2030 and 1.66 billion by 2050.

Poverty eradication: Lessons from China

  • China’s story since 1978 is unique – the country has achieved the fastest decline in poverty.
  • Its experiences hold some important lessons for India, especially because in 1978, when China embarked on its economic reforms, its per capita income at $156.4 was way below that of India at $205.7.
  • Today, China is more than six times ahead of India in terms of per capita income – China’s per capita income in 2021 was $12,556, while that of India was $1,933 in 2020.
  • China started its economic reforms in 1978 with a primary focus on agriculture.
  • Contribution of agriculture: It broke away from the commune system and liberated agri-markets from myriad controls.
  • Increase in agri-GDP: As a result, during 1978-84, China’s agri-GDP grew by 7.1 per cent per annum and farmers’ real incomes grew by 14 per cent per annum with the liberalisation of agri-prices.
  • Creation of demand: Enhanced incomes of rural people created a huge demand for industrial products, and also gave political legitimacy for pushing further the reform agenda.
  • The aim of China’s manufacturing through Town and Village Enterprises (TVEs) was basically to meet the surging demand from the hinterlands.
  • Population factor: China introduced the one-child per family policy in September 1980, which lasted till early 2016.
  • It is this strict control on population growth, coupled with booming growth in overall GDP over these years, that led to a rapid increase in per capita incomes.
  • Chinese population growth today is just 0.1 per cent per annum compared to India’s 1.1 per cent per annum.

Growth story of Indian agriculture

  • Over a 40-year period, 1978-2018, China’s agriculture has grown at 4.5 per cent per annum while India’s agri-GDP growth ever since reforms began in 1991 has hovered at around 3 per cent per annum.
  • Market and price liberalisation in agriculture still remains a major issue, and at the drop of any hint of food price rise, the government clamps down exports, imposes stock limits on traders, suspends futures markets, and pushes other measures that strangle markets.
  • Implicit taxation of farmers: The net result of all this is reflected in the “implicit taxation” of farmers to favour the vocal lobby of consumers, especially the urban middle class.

Way forward

  •  Population control: The only way is through effective education, especially that of the girl child, open discussion and dialogue about family planning methods and conversations about the benefits of small family size in society.
  • Effective education: As per the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), of all the girls and women above the age of 6 years, only 16.6 per cent were educated for 12 years or more.
  • Based on unit-level data of NFHS5 (2019-21), it is found that women’s education is the most critical determinant of the status of malnutrition amongst children below the age of five.
  • Unless a focused and aggressive campaign is launched to educate the girl child and provide her with more than 12 years of good quality education, India’s performance in terms of the prosperity of its masses, and the human development index may not improve significantly for many more years to come
  • If  government can take up this cause in sync with state governments, this will significantly boost the labour participation rate of women, which is currently at a meagre 25 per cent, and lead to “double engine” growth.
  • Nutrition interventions: The NFHS-5 data shows that more than 35 per cent of our children below the age of five are stunted, which means their earning capacity will remain hampered throughout life. They will remain stuck in a low-level income trap.


From a policy perspective, if there is any subsidy that deserves priority, it should be for the education of the girl child. This policy focus can surely bring a rich harvest, politically and economically, for many years to come.

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