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The Service Sector as India's Road to Economic Growth


  • Barry Eichengreen
  • Poonam Gupta


While India is distinctive among developing countries for its fast-growing service sector, sceptics have raised doubts about the quality and sustainability of this service-sector growth and its implications for economic development. We show, consistent with the views of the sceptics, that while growth of the sector has been unusually rapid, it started 15 years ago from unusually low levels. That the share of services has now simply converged to the international norm raises questions about whether it will continue growing rapidly. In particular, whether service-sector output and employment continue to grow in excess of international norms will depend on the continued expansion of modern services (business services, communication and banking) but, also, on the application of modern information technology to more traditional services (retail and wholesale trade, transport and storage, public administration and defense ). The second aspect obviously has more positive implications for output than for employment. We also show that the modern services that are growing most rapidly are now large enough where their future performance could have a significant macroeconomic impact. The expansion of modern service-sector employment is not simply disguised manufacturing activity. Finally, we show that the mix of skilled and unskilled labor in manufacturing and services is increasingly similar. It is no longer obvious therefore that manufacturing is the main destination for the vast majority of Indian labor moving into the modern sector and that modern services are a viable destination only for the highly-skilled few. We conclude that sustaining economic growth and raising living standards will require shifting labor into both manufacturing and services.

Suggested Citation

  • Barry Eichengreen & Poonam Gupta, 2011. "The Service Sector as India's Road to Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 16757, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16757
    Note: IFM

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barry Bosworth & Susan M. Collins & Arvind Virmani, 2006. "Sources of Growth in the Indian Economy," India Policy Forum, Global Economy and Development Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 3(1), pages 1-69.
    2. Ingo Borchert & Aaditya Mattoo, 2009. "The crisis-resilience of services trade," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(13), pages 2115-2136, August.
    3. Poonam Gupta & James P. F. Gordon, 2004. "Understanding India’s Services Revolution," IMF Working Papers 04/171, International Monetary Fund.
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    Cited by:

    1. de Vries, Gaaitzen J. & Erumban, Abdul A. & Timmer, Marcel P. & Voskoboynikov, Ilya & Wu, Harry X., 2012. "Deconstructing the BRICs: Structural transformation and aggregate productivity growth," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 211-227.
    2. Barry Eichengreen & Poonam Gupta, 2013. "Exports of services: Indian experience in perspective," Indian Growth and Development Review, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 6(1), pages 35-60, April.
    3. Eichengreen, Barry & Gupta, Poonam, 2012. "The Real Exchange Rate and Export Growth: Are Services Different?," MPRA Paper 43358, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Pablo López & Luis Rosado, 2013. "¿Qué puede aprender Latinoamérica del auge de las TIC en el Asia Pacífico?," REVISTA DE ECONOMÍA DEL CARIBE 014731, UNIVERSIDAD DEL NORTE.
    5. Mukherji, Arnab & Mukherji, Anjan, 2012. "Bihar: What Went Wrong? And What Changed?," Working Papers 12/107, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
    6. Natalie Chun & Soohyung Lee, 2015. "Bonus compensation and productivity: evidence from Indian manufacturing plant-level data," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 47-58, February.
    7. repec:dgr:rugggd:gd-121 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Emiliano Libman & Juan Antonio Montecino & Arslan Razmi, 2017. "Sustained investment surges," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2017-09, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    9. Shingal, ANIRUDH, 2010. "Services growth and convergence: Getting India’s states together," MPRA Paper 32813, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Utsav, Kumar, 2010. "India’s Demographic Transition: Boon or Bane? A State-Level Perspective," MPRA Paper 24922, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Verma, Rubina, 2012. "Can total factor productivity explain value added growth in services?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 163-177.
    12. Mishra, Saurabh & Lundstrom, Susanna & Anand, Rahul, 2011. "Service export sophistication and economic growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5606, The World Bank.
    13. Uwitonze, Eric & Heshmati, Almas, 2016. "Service Sector Development and its Determinants in Rwanda," IZA Discussion Papers 10117, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. repec:wbk:wbpubs:28660 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Banerjee, Rajabrata & Roy, Saikat Sinha, 2014. "Human capital, technological progress and trade: What explains India's long run growth?," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 15-31.

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    JEL classification:

    • O0 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - General
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O5 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies


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