New Delhi: The Economic Survey 2017-18 is printed in pink colour to underline the importance of gender issues to the economy. The survey points out that the North-Eastern states (a model for the rest of the country) consistently out-perform others. The Survey takes into account that gender equality is an inherently multi-dimensional issue.
Accordingly, assessments have been made based on three specific dimensions of gender, such as Agency (relates to women’s ability to make decisions on reproduction, spending on themselves, spending on their households and their own 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) and 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) which aim to reflect the status, role and empowerment of women in the society.
Over the last 10-15 years, India’s performance improved on 14 out of 17 indicators of women’s agency, attitudes, and outcomes. On seven of them, the improvement has been such that India’s situation is comparable to that of a cohort of countries after accounting for levels of development.
The Survey encouragingly notes that gender outcomes exhibit a convergence pattern, improving with wealth to a greater extent in India than in similar countries so that even where it is lagging, it can expect to catch up over time.
The Survey, however, cautions that on several other indicators, notably employment, use of reversible contraception, and son preference, India has some distance to traverse because development has not proved to be an antidote.