THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Malayalis might love to think that they have travelled a long way on the road towards building an egalitarian society, but facts appear to suggest otherwise.
Thus, while the affluent 10 per cent of the population corners 41 per cent of the total domestic income generated in the State, the bottom 10 per cent gets only a distressing share of 1.3 per cent. And, despite Kerala’s much-touted achievements in the fields of healthcare and education, only 7.5 per cent of youth from poor families are fortunate to enter the portals of colleges, while 36.8 per cent of their peers from the top 10 per cent are fortunate enough to do so. Worse, 54.3 per cent of those aged between 18 and 25 from poor families are jobless while the figure for those belonging to affluent families is less than half that at 24.8 per cent, says a study on the economic status of Keralites conducted by the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP).
The study, covering 28,049 persons belonging to 5,696 households spread over the entire State, shows that what the State has witnessed over the last few decades is conversion of the lower middle class into the upper middle class with an accompanying accentuation of the economic disparities among those at the two ends of the social spectrum. According to the KSSP study, the findings of which were released at a news conference here on Thursday, 41 per cent of the Kerala population today comprises the lower middle class and 9 per cent of the upper middle class and the rich, but the major chunk is made up of the very poor and the poor. The per capita monthly income of the upper middle class and the rich is over 12 times more than that of those belonging to the very poor and poor.
The study shows that the incidence of poverty is the highest in Palakkad, Wayanad, Idukki and Malappuram districts, the worst being Palakkad. It also questions the premise that there is no urban-rural divide in Kerala and suggests that when it comes to incomes and economic wellbeing, the villages are really worse off, particularly among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Among the various communities, the situation is bad among Muslims where the poor outnumber the middle class. The sector that provides employment to the largest number of persons is the tertiary sector (52.6 per cent) and the ones who earn the highest incomes are professionals, particularly by doctors whose average monthly income is Rs.22,400.
The study also reveals that the correlation between education and income is quite strong and concludes that the rat race among parents for securing professional education for children is a direct fallout of this. The study also reveals that over the last five years, there has been a massive asset transfer from 91 per cent of the population to the remaining 9 per cent and surmises that this could suggest a major reversal of the gains of the widely acclaimed land reforms in Kerala. The State also had the highest per capita expenditure on healthcare and the poor spend as much as 34.5 per cent of the income to secure healthcare.