In 2020 on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index — which measures countries’ education and health outcomes on a scale of 0 to 1 — India achieved a score of 0.49, below Nepal and Kenya, both poorer countries. China scored 0.65, putting it on par with Chile and Slovakia, which have higher GDP per capita. Most dramatically disadvantaged are India’s women. Since 1990, Indian women’s labour market participation has fallen from 32 per cent to about 25 per cent. And behind them come hundreds of millions of underskilled youngsters. In 2019 less than half of India’s 10-year-olds could read a simple story, compared with more than 80 per cent of Chinese children and 96 per cent of Americans. In the coming decade, 200mn of these poorly educated young people will reach working age. A large share of them will probably end up eking out a living in the informal sector and getting by on handouts. Unemployment amongst the under-25s already runs at more than 45 per cent.

Looking to the future, what sceptics of Modi’s boosterism ask is whether India might become the forerunner of a rather gloomy new model for populous, lower-income countries, managed, without a powerfully effective governmental apparatus, or globally competitive manufacturing sectors, by digitally enhanced populism, delivering cash payments to the cell phones of hundreds of millions of dependent people.

Chartbook brutal on India.

The best thing about this return-to-office model is that it is differential and contextual. Whether the exact categories make sense and who falls in which is something that you can debate ad infinitum.

What should be added there though is that without deliberate change and practice—things that people and companies are not great at—most people and companies will by default be pretty bad at remote and hybrid working. People will find a local optimum and be content staying there.