While America's middle class disappears and wealth disparity continues to widen, other countries in world are experiencing growth in their middle-class citizens. In the emerging markets of the world, the middle class is becoming more important economically as well as politically.
Latin America in particular now has an income inequality between the rich and the poor that is actually narrowing as social programs pull people out of poverty and into the middle class. Around the world, businesses are being redefined in order to meet this new growing trend of middle-class needs and concerns. The global middle class now totals 2 billion people that spend 6.9 trillion annually. The proliferation of the middle class has erupted in a spree of banking services offering mobile apps and ATMs to the population. Credit needs have grown and incomes have risen so that people are able to afford a lifestyle previously denied to them. Financial planning services have also begun to creep into the banking system as people can now afford to save money and invest for their own interests.
Latin America is growing the most; nearly 50 million people moved into the middle socioeconomic class over the past decade. The largest income group, known as the "vulnerable class," accounts for 38% of the population. Their income is just over the poverty marker, but the new middle class is equal in numbers to the region's poor. This is a paradigm shift in a place where inequality between rich and poor has been a way of life for decades.
The average daily income for this new middle class is between $4 and $10 daily per person. The middle-class income, according to the World Bank, is defined as being between $10 and $50 in Latin America. The change has been welcomed in countries like Brazil where a booming economy has helped 30 million people rise out of poverty under their former president "Lula," and has helped make the country more independent, less reliant on foreign aid and has even been helpful in pushing for greater democracy.
In India, the middle class is largely a new political movement as the lower-middle class plays a significant part in general elections votes. Now with an emerging middle class, business concerns take precedence in a country where industry has started to boom. The demand for quality goods produced en masse has created a cry for multinational corporations (MNC) such as Walmart; the hope being that the mega-retailer will bring in investment funds and help shore up the value of the rupee. A new infrastructure, which is sorely needed, will also help with problems in transporting goods as some 40% of food rots during transit right now.
Financial Planning has become a huge need in India as a result of the recent changes in the middle-class population. Less than 10% of the workforce has access to some type of social security funds, which means prudent investing is the only way most Indians are able to retire. Health standards have improved in India as well, and life expectancy has increased. This means that retirement funds are no longer a luxury but a necessity.
The Bottom Line
Although the rise of the middle class has caused some confusion for some who aren't sure about which income class they fall under, the change is widely regarded as good news to many emerging countries as business demand increases to meet these new consumers needs. In particular, businesses such as cosmetics, automobiles, cell phone minutes and personal banking have become in high demand. The new development is creating a demand for banking services and retirement planning in order to serve the middle class.