Equality beyond GDP -Arpan Tulsyan

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published Published on Jan 24, 2019   modified Modified on Jan 24, 2019
-The Indian Express

New India cannot view empowerment of women merely as economic resource.

Last month, Niti Aayog released a report on state-level progress across various indicators under the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The comprehensive index score on gender equality (Goal 5) revealed that all Indian states, except Kerala and Sikkim, fall in the red zone, signifying low performance.

Despite such worrisome findings in its own report, Niti Aayog’s almost simultaneously released ‘Strategy for New India @75’ document falls short of engaging gender equality in a meaningful way. This important, over 200-page document includes only a short, four-page section on gender which discusses just one theme: The need to enhance female labour force participation, while neglecting a whole gamut of other issues.

Crimes against women are discussed merely as a barrier to women’s mobility, one that hampers their supply in the labour market. This, despite the NCRB data recording an 83 per cent increase in crimes against women between 2007 and 2016, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global poll in 2018 naming India as the most dangerous country for women. Likewise, the chapter on school education does not go beyond suggestions to offer counselling and support to girls who are victims of gender-based violence.

In its single-minded focus on improving GDP-driven growth statistics, the strategy document aims to achieve a female labour force participation of at least 30 per cent by 2022. Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, the female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India declined from 36 per cent to 23.7 per cent. This decline is much steeper in rural areas, from 49.7 per cent to 26.7 per cent. Clearly, India is not following a historical trajectory similar to other countries where female labour participation rates have increased with improvements in education levels and GDP.

The strategy document does not recognise that female labour force participation rate in India is, in fact, lower among urban, educated women. According to recent research by Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a major metropolis like Delhi has only 196 female workers per 1,000 workers, and Mumbai has only 188. In contrast, a state like Nagaland, which has historically been matrilineal, has more than 500 women workers per 1,000 in most districts. The strategy document skips discussing any number beyond the national averages, and offers no analysis of social barriers on women, particularly married, in entering or staying put in the labour force.

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The Indian Express, 24 January, 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/reservation-disparity-sustainable-development-equality-beyond-gdp-niti-aayog-5552980/?fbclid=IwAR10Kvs2Y7LnTsCYP

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