As they say, good things first. On an encouraging note, this year’s economic survey is a pink copy - highlighting the gender gaps prevailing in India today.
According to the statement released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), assessments have been made based on three specific dimensions of gender, that are -
- Agency (relates to women’s ability to make decisions on reproduction, spending on themselves, households and their mobility and health)
- Attitudes (relate to attitudes about violence against women/wives, and the ideal number of daughters preferred relative to the ideal number of sons)
- Outcomes (relate to ‘son preference’ measured by sex ratio of last child, female employment, choice of contraception, education level, age at marriage, age at first birth and physical or sexual violence experienced by women)
The above indicators aim to provide an understanding of the status, role and empowerment of women in the society.
The findings suggest that overall, India’s performance has improved since the last decade. 14/17 indicators of women’s agency, attitudes and outcomes show progress. The remaining are comparable with developing countries similar to India.
Unfortunately, one of the eye-catching facts of the recently released Economic Survey is the significant decline in women’s employment. There has been a fall of 12.3% of women’s participation in the workforce; from 36.3% (2005-06) to 24.3% (2015-16). This news is especially disheartening considering only recently at Davos, International Monetary Fund chief Christian Lagarde, quoted IMF research, saying 'women’s participation in the workforce to the level of men can boost the Indian economy by no less than 27 %’.Another indicator that requires attention is 'a meta-preference manifesting itself in fertility stopping rules contingent on the sex of the last child, which notionally creates “unwanted” girls, estimated at 21 million.' In simpler terms, women are forced to keep giving birth to children, till the much awaited male child is born.
Regarding heterogeneity, (Heterogeneity denotes diversity - consisting of people from lots of different backgrounds would be considered having the quality of heterogeneity.) the North-Eastern states are have out-performed all the other states. The survey notes that ‘while hinterland states are naturally lagging others, what’s surprising is that southern states don’t perform as well as their development levels would suggest.’
The survey sums up emphasising - India wants to show a more profound commitment on the gender front and, various governments schemes such as Beti Bachao - Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana Schemes and mandatory maternity leaves are steps in the right direction.
Several facts that show that India is progressing and moving towards the India of our dreams. But there is no stopping. Addressing rigid societal and cultural barriers is an ongoing process, and the work must go on.