Approximately a billion people, one-seventh of the world's population, have moved out of poverty in recent years and entered the marketplace en masse as consumers. These new consumers—still poor, but no longer merely surviving, as in the past—come mostly from China and India, but also from Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and many other countries. If these low-income people were a nation, that country would have the world's third-largest population and tenth-biggest gross domestic product.
Until recently, many of these consumers struggled to put enough food on the table. Now they're working in factories and in call centers, purchasing food and beverages, and spending on such items that do more than fulfill basic subsistence needs as cell phones, consumer electronics, appliances, clothing, cosmetics, and personal transportation. Some are moving up from bicycles to motor scooters and from scooters to small cars. They're advancing from manual farming to mechanised farming, buying small tractors for the first time.
Prior to the global recession, for example, purchases of tractors by India's 306 million farmers—equal to the entire population of the U.S.—were increasing at an astounding rate of 20% per year. This increases demand for steel, rubber, fuel, seed, and fertiliser. The trends will continue.
Some of the new consumers have been moving from the countryside to cities, others from their countries of origin to countries with better job opportunities. In China alone, the demand for laborers was so great prior to the slowdown that some 140 million to 150 million migrant workers—more than Japan's entire population—were constantly on the move, crowding the cities with the most jobs. That stretched many cities' capacity beyond the breaking point.