There is now global evidence that it is cities and their immediate regions that drive economic growth. This report studies the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), which accommodates India’s foremost economic agglomeration, through an economic geography lens that closely synergizes with urban and regional planning and governance.

It investigates whether Delhi NCR’s industrial structure, demography, and spatial interdependencies achieved the benefits of efficiency, equity, and energy resource conservation after the liberalization in 1991. Findings reveal expected job growth patterns at the NCR scale but dynamic job movements between the sub-regions of the core, periphery, and region. Competitiveness by sector, location, and contribution to GDP and industrial efficiencies are discussed. Other findings reveal the impact on people's lives including the marginalized groups, on aspects such as changes in per capita income, consumption levels, job profiles, and migration.

Concerted efforts towards spatio-economic assessments and strategic planning for the coordinated economic development of such city-regions have not been mainstreamed in the Indian context and this report provides the starting point of a framework for such assessments.

Key Findings:

  • India’s leading urban agglomeration economy is located within the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) and cuts across multiple city and state jurisdictions, but functions as one economy and one labor pool.
  • Delhi NCR’s core–periphery spatial system is in transition. The Core National Capital Territory (Core NCT) has decentralized without the expected movement to a knowledge-based, high-wage economy, and informality persists despite higher infrastructure provision levels.
  • The peripheries are not conventional political backyards; rather, they attract investment by the adjoining state governments. Spatially contiguous Gurugram (in Haryana) and Gautam Buddha Nagar (in Uttar Pradesh) districts have the highest per capita incomes among districts in their respective states.
  • Rapid urbanization, peripheralization of jobs, and migration tripled the region’s per capita income and increased consumption levels. Declining poverty rates coexisted with increasing unemployment rates. Women’s workforce participation remained abysmal, with marginalized groups concentrated in elementary occupations.
  • Employment contributions from industrial sectors that experienced growth in industrial output and labor productivity, were higher than those in industrial sectors that experienced growth in technical and energy efficiency.
  • Place-specific, dynamic, and targeted economic and infrastructure development strategies must be prioritized, including revitalization of Core NCT. Employing such frameworks could ensure that economic benefits of regional growth are widely distributed to all types of businesses and population segments in comparable mega city-regions.
GIF showing figures from report.
Figures from the report.