Study shows China, India lagging in economic well-being, living standards

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China and India, the two economic powerhouses of a fast developing Asia, are lagging in terms of economic well-being and living standards of their population, a new study undertaken by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) shows.

According to the International Comparison Program (ICP) in Asia and the Pacific: Purchasing Power Parity Preliminary Report, released yesterday, China and India account for 64 percent of the total real gross domestic product of the 23 economies featured in the study.

However, when the size of the economies is adjusted by population, China and India drop to 10th and 18th respectively, out of the 22 economies participating in the full GDP comparison.

China ranks 15th and India 17th when the economies are compared based on “actual final consumption of households” (AFCH), which the ADB says is a better measure of the economic well-being of the population.

According to the ADB, the AFCH is a measure of what households actually consume, comprising of what they purchase and what they are supplied for individual use by the government (principally education and health). The economic well-being of the population is obtained by comparing household consumption expenditure per capita.

The five economies that top the list are Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and Macau. The five economies that are at the bottom of the survey are Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The study found that a person living in China spends an average of only US$4,469 (RMB11,113) per year, while an Indian spends an average of US$1,194 per year.

Based on the Price Level Index, which is the ratio of the PPP to the exchange rate, Fiji and Hong Kong are the most expensive places to live, followed by Macau and Singapore.

Based on PLI, mainland China ranks eighth, and India 16th. Price levels in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia are very similar and close to the Asian average.

The cheapest places are Laos, Vietnam, Iran, Cambodia, and Nepal.

Table: PPP Adjusted Indicators

Country Per Capita Real GDP
Per Capita Real AFCH
Price Level Index GDP
(Hong Kong, China=100)
Bangladesh 7,245 6,553 48
Bhutan 20,903 12,346 49
Brunei Darussalam 269,581 81,744 74
Cambodia 8,269 7,771 43
China, People’s Republic of 23,556 11,502 57
Fiji Islands 23,583 25,235 117
Hong Kong, China 202,941 125,303 100
India 12,070 9,346 46
Indonesia 18,427 15,089 55
Iran, Islamic Republic of 60,857 42,945 41
Lao, PDR 10,361 7,203 38
Macao, China 212,617 67,639 90
Malaysia 65,136 35,626 63
Maldives* 14,360
Mongolia 15,104 10,530 47
Nepal 6,177 5,902 43
Pakistan 13,658 13,230 44
Philippines 16,663 14,145 54
Singapore 236,336 99,706 88
Sri Lanka 19,839 17,629 48
Taipei,China 147,971 109,108 82
Thailand 39,086 28,917 54
Viet Nam 12,295 8,541 40

*Maldives is only participating in the comparison of actual final consumption of households.
Source: Asian Development Bank