Many escape velocities

 , Economic Times

People have started brushing up on physics. If you are poor, 11.2-km-a-second (Earth) may be required to break out of the poverty trap. If you are SC/ST, it might require 59.5-km-a-second (Jupiter), and if you are an SC/ST woman, it might require 617.5-km-a-second (the Sun). Accelerating to such escape velocities is easier if an object is first placed in a low Earth orbit. Why don’t poor people reach such orbits?

The answer has to do with the division of labour. Understanding those benefits of specialisation and division of labour predate Adam Smith. For example, there was Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733), who wrote a book titled The Fable of the Bees.

Here is a quote from the book. “But if one will wholly apply himself to the making of Bows and Arrows, whilst another provides Food, a third builds Huts, a fourth makes Garments, and a fifth Utensils, they not only become useful to one another, but the Callings and Employments themselves will, in the same Number of Years, receive much greater Improvements, than if all had been promiscuously follow’d by every one of the Five.”

That’s division of labour. If there has been a large increase in income, productivity and prosperity throughout the world, that’s largely because of specialisation.

The ministry of statistics and programme implementation (Mospi) is planning a time-use survey, designed to tell us what men and women spend their time on and also to figure out contribution by women that do not enter national accounts.

There was another such survey in 1998-99. These surveys don’t quite tell us what poor people spend their time on. But according to the 1998-99 survey results, the rural poor seem to spend much more time on “unproductive” pursuits.

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