India Semester Abroad

India Semester Abroad

University of Guelph

  An informal pre-departure orientation from a participant’s perspective.




Academic: Economics

UG India Semester 2008











India’s economy is as diverse as every other aspect of the country. In 2002, the Gross Domestic Product was roughly 25% agriculture, 25% industry, and 50% services. On top of this, India has an active informal sector including all sorts of small-scale enterprises and unregistered forms of work.


Employing 17% of the population, industry is an important part of the Indian economy. Common industries in India include textile production, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, and machinery. Some of these goods are exported, while others feed national production.


23% of Indians work in the service sector, which includes tourism, housework, sales, professional and financial services, and government positions. Over the last few years, India has had a boom in high-tech jobs including software creation and industry call centres.


Agriculture has traditionally been the backbone of the Indian economy, and about 60% of Indians still work in the sector. The majority of these workers are small-scale farmers producing very little above the subsistence level. Nonetheless, India produces more than enough food to feed its population, and has not had a major famine since independence. The most commonly produced commodities are rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, fish, and potatoes; the most common domestic animals are cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry.




India’s has experienced a 6% rate of economic growth over the last decade, yet this apparent success must be taken with a grain of salt. In India, the richest 10% of the population consumes 1/3 of the wealth, while the poorest 10% controls only 3.5% of the national income. This unequal distribution of resources means that the poor get proportionately less benefit from economic growth than do the rich.

Other important features of India’s economy:

  • With almost 1/6 of the world’s population, India has a massive workforce of over 400 million people.
  • In 1998-99, India received US$2.9 billion in economic aid from overseas.
  • India’s external debt in 2001 was US$100.6 billion.
  • The Indian government consistently spends about 10% more money than it collects in revenues.
  • India’s most important trade partners are the United States, Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore, Belgium, Germany and China.


Do you like numbers? Put on your thinking cap and look through key indicators from the World Bank or the full United Nations Development Report !

Want to check my numbers? Go to the CIA Factbook.

Ready for some good news? These BBC articles deal with economic growth, the success of liberalization, and the possible benefits of globalization!



Updated: 2006 November 16