For the first time since the 1990s, the global ­middle class shrank last year, according to a recent Pew Research Center estimate. About 150 million people—a number equal to the populations of the U.K. and Germany combined—tumbled down the socioeconomic ladder in 2020, with South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa seeing the biggest declines.

Bloomberg, April 2021

The pandemic has pushed millions out of the global middle class and increased the number of poor (those living on US$2 or less a day) by 131 million.

Exceptional China

The number would have been even bigger except for China’s pandemic containment. The World Bank expects China’s GDP to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021.


The economic power shift megatrend shows China and India will account for 35% of the world’s population by 2050. Despite the devastation wrought by Covid-19 the World Bank expects India to make good on its pre-pandemic poverty reduction efforts. India should take its place as the second strongest economy within what will become the world’s largest trading region.

Megatrends watch: economic power shift


This update is part of our Megatrends Watch series, which tracks developments that inform our six global megatrends….

Image: Ali Arif Soydaş

Sydney Business Insights is a University of Sydney Business School initiative aiming to provide the business community and public, including our students, alumni and partners with a deeper understanding of major issues and trends around the future of business.

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