Rising Living Expenses Leads to Indians Working Longer, Says Report
As many as 35% of consumers in India described their financial situation as deteriorating. 46% view the general economic outlook of the country negatively. These were some of the highlights of the Global Issues Barometer report published by Kantar — a global data analytics and brand consulting firm. The report, based on studies conducted on 11,000 respondents — including 800 Indians — across 19 countries, contains key insights into consumer patterns and attitudes as the world struggles to tackle with a general economic slump and the ongoing climate crisis. 71% of the participants across the globe are of the opinion that inflation, fueled in part by the Russia-Ukraine war that remains among the top concern of all consumers, including those in India, will continue to rise.
To urban Indians, rising living expenses have meant that they now find purchasing common household goods such as refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioners significantly more challenging than their global counterparts. 32% of households in India are struggling to meet their monthly expenses like rent and mortgage. This has led to some changes in people’s spending and saving patterns. Commenting about the same to Business Insider India, Soumya Mohanty of Kantar’s South Asia division said, “Consumers are going to cut back more on… cars, durables, and mobile phones.” Mohanty noted that “there’s a growing concern for life plans and costs of living.”
Indians have been facing a constant price-rise for some time now. Rising retail inflation and an unending fuel hike has taken a toll on expenses. In January this year, Mint reported, based on a survey it conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Policy Research, that 76% of urban Indians felt that their household expenses had increased in 2021. In 2020, this number was 57%. Further, in May, the ninth EY Future Consumer Index for India noted that rising costs of living had driven more Indians to save rather than spend. Low-income groups have been affected the most by these rising monthly costs.
Kantar’s report reinforces these earlier findings, and additionally mentions that 74% Indians have felt that ever-increasing living expenses have now also impacted their long-term plans. While earlier reports had indicated that Indians had reduced their expenditure to save more, the Global Issues Barometer found that urban Indians now are also saving lesser as they are increasingly finding it difficult to cope with an all-round increase in fuel prices, monthly bills, and food and beverage prices. According to Mohanty, “future savings towards children’s education or their own retirement is on hold, (and) they’re actually prioritizing the ‘here and now’… they are going to reduce the amount of… savings… and they are going to work harder than other countries — even longer hours so that they earn enough money”.
The report comes at a time when there is already a global burnout crisis in workforces around the world. Workers are increasingly feeling exhausted and alienated from their jobs, leading to high levels of stress among employees. Uncertainty among workers about the permanence of their work, and expectation to be readily available for any task by employers, are key driving forces behind the recent surge in burn-outs. The situation is further complicated by internalized guilt and shame that follows a burn-out. This is a fall out of the rise of hustle culture, that has led to people often putting their work ahead of their own selves, even at a detriment to their health.
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The Kantar report also highlights global and Indian users’ diminishing concern towards Covid-19. The still-ongoing Pandemic is no longer seen as a pressing issue around the world, even as a new contagious variant has caused a surge in Europe and the US.
A key change that the study noted among consumers is increasing eco-anxiety caused by climate inaction and a desire for environmentally accountable and simultaneously affordable brands and products. The researchers also noted that while many want to move to more environmentally sustainable products, they also do not see why the premium of wanting to save the planet should fall on their shoulders. Consumers largely felt that businesses must take responsibility of solving the climate crisis, and that brands should work more on affordability of green products.
The report points out that unlike the rest of the world, Indians are unwilling to believe that the responsibility of improving the economic and financial situation falls squarely on authorities. Instead, Indians are of the opinion that fixing the current situation would require a joint effort from the citizens as well. The report comes at a time when the state has enforced a new labor code, that among other things has empowered employers to expand daily working hours from 9 to 12 hours. Workers’ willingness to put in more hours, dictated by a need to keep up with ever-increasing inflation, may potentially be willfully misinterpreted to introduce mandatory long office hours. Further, not seeing the state — clearly holding much more power and enforcing ability than individuals — as responsible for a large part for improving the economic situation or work conditions may reduce its accountability to the people, which can be ripe ground for further degradation of the economy, resulting ultimately in even higher living costs for the public.
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