An average Indian was richer than a Chinese in 1962

Random observations.

Today, I was going through GDP (Gross Domestic Product) charts of India & its neighbours. I noticed a few points that found interesting. Some may be familiar but looking on a chart makes them clearer.


  1. India & China had similar GDP for a long time from the 19th century. Surprisingly, once in 1981, Indian GDP was 1 billion Pounds more than China. It was around the time of economic liberalisation in India, that China’s rocket got lit up. And after the global recession of 2008 China’s growth was a straight line up. By 2019, China was almost 2/3rd of USA’s GDP and poised to overtake in the next few decades – China was 14.3 trillion Dollars and USA was 21.4 trillion Dollars, with Japan at a distant third.
  2. India’s GDP started rising after 1991 but gained speed only after 2000. In 2019, India overtook its past colonial ruler UK to reach a GDP of 2.87 trillion Dollars.
Gross Domestic Product of India & its neighbours over decades
Gross Domestic Product of India & its neighbours over decades

GDP per capita (averaged per person, so affected by the population):

  1. In 1962, India had a much higher GDP per capita than its neighbours. In simple terms, an average Indian was richer than the average Chinese, or Pakistani in 1962. The tables turned and in 1967, Pakistan had a higher GDP per capita than India & China.
  2. As seen earlier, after 1991 the Chinese economic miracle took off. In about thirty years (from 1990 to 2020), the GDP per capita for China has increased almost thirty times, widening its lead over all its neighbours – today India lags significantly behind China in this metric. India too has grown, almost by six times.
  3. Pakistan has grown slower, around three times. But it was Bangladesh which has grown as fast or even faster than India. Today its GDP per capita is almost 50% more than Pakistan – Bangladesh was 1885 USD and Pakistan was 1284 USD. Bangladesh GDP per capita (1885 USD) is in striking distance to India (2099 USD).
  4. Due to the pandemic, India’s GDP per capita declined to 1947 USD whereas Bangladesh jumped up to 2227 USD, overtaking India. An average Bangladeshi is now richer than an Indian. On a related note, an average Bangladeshi lives longer than an Indian. Life expectancy for Bangladesh was 72.32 years, India was 69.42 years, China was 76.70 years, Pakistan was 67.11 years and USA was 78.54 years.
GDP per capita of India & its neighbours over decades
GDP per capita of India & its neighbours over decades

With the above trends in mind, if you start to read the recent history of these countries you will find fascinating reasons and revealing stories.

Disclaimer: I have been lazy and taken the numbers from various sources, so they may not be normalised. Sources:, and So please notice the trends here and not the absolutes.


    • venkatarangan

      At first read, I didn’t follow, now I got it. See the first set of charts under “GDP”, you will notice that GDP of India in 2019 was 2.87 trillion Dollars, whereas UK was 2.83 trillion, a small lead for India. Whereas the page’s header with the world map showing India in Red, UK in Green is GDP per capita – which is GDP averaged per person; in that matrix India lags significantly due to the high population.

      Did I explain it right now or am I still missing something?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.