In the past, among the Hindu community, every occupation from street sweeping to the priesthood was traditionally performed by a specific caste. The situation has changed today, as more people have moved into the cities and taken advantage of new opportunities. Many now aspire to hold professional jobs.

Most Indians work on the land. Since independence, the "green revolution," has introduced new, high-yield varieties of wheat and rice, and increased the use of fertilizers and irrigation. India has become a major exporter of rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, fruit and vegetables, cattle, milk, poultry and fish. Despite agricultural improvements, India's population is growing, and over one-third suffers from malnutrition; many farmers are unable to make a living, and thousands move to cities to look for work. Children may also have to contribute to family finances by doing small jobs on city streets, or working in carpet- and silk-weaving factories.

India is one of the world's leading industrial nations. Many large-scale enterprises are government owned, though privatization is increasing. The manufacturing sector produces computer software, textiles, jewellery, chemicals, steel, machinery and leather. The forestry industry is a leading producer of fuelwood and charcoal. India's workforce is generally highly skilled and underemployed. Consequently, many North American and European companies have established factories and development centres in India, where operation costs are lower.

Small business is particularly dynamic in India; many people set up their own business, which may be something as small as a shoeshine stand or handicraft business, or as ambitious as an international import-export company. Women's economic participation has been increasing, not only in professions in the cities, but also in rural areas, where independent and co-operative businesses owned and run by women are beginning to flourish.

  Did you know?
In 325 B.C., Indians made a type of steel that has been called the best steel ever made. Wootz was made from smelting at 1200C. A seven-metre wootz pillar in Delhi has no rust on it, despite being made in 500 AD.

  Did you know?
An organization called SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association) was started in Ahmedabad in 1972 to help poor and low-caste women fight against discriminatory practices. The organization provides bank loans to help women finance their businesses.