politics

What it means to have more women than men in India

What it means to have more women than men in India

India has 1,020 females per 1,000 males, according to the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-21). Mint delves into the data to understand the larger implications of such a skew towards women in the sex ratio. Are the findings of the survey surprising? Caution is in order while reading the latest sex ratio number. India’s projected population was 1.29 billion in 2016. If sex ratio were to be 991, as estimated by NFHS 2015-16, the population would then have comprised 643 million women and 649 million men. For a projected population of 1.36 billion in 2021, with a sex ratio of 1,020, there would be 688 million women and 675 million men. Such a break-up means a near-double rise in the population of women against that of men in the last five years (45 million women vis-a-vis 26 million men). The difference seems huge, even after factoring in differing death rates of the sexes. How do NFHS data and census data compare? NFHS, while being a large-scale survey that covered roughly 650,000 households in the latest round across states, has consistently overestimated sex ratio, compared with population census. In 2005-06, NFHS reckoned the sex ratio at 1:1, whereas census 2011 revealed it to be 943 females per 1,000 males. NFHS estimate, after exhibiting progress between 1998-99 and 2005-06, fell again in 2015-16. The good news is that census data has shown a steady rise in sex ratio for the last three decades. Population experts suggest covid-related migrant flows may have influenced NFHS findings. What does the regional divide now look like? As many as 30 out of 36 states and Union territories showed improved sex ratios from 2015-16; 23 states reported sex ratio greater than 1,000 in the latest NFHS study. Despite this remarkable progress, there is a significant regional disparity as witnessed historically, with southern states being the leaders and north-western states being the laggards. Did Beti Bachao Beti Padhao make a dent? Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) was launched in 2015 to improve the declining child sex ratio (CSR)—girls per 1,000 boys in 0-6 years. Sex ratio at birth (SRB) estimated by NFHS can be an imperfect proxy for CSR. Among the states with low SRB, Delhi (812 to 923), Haryana (836 to 893) and Punjab (860 to 904) showed marked improvements, whereas Rajasthan (887 to 891) stagnated in the last five years. These states also had a larger representation in the districts targeted under first and second phase of BBBP (2015-17). Does this mean more women in workforce? No. Over the last two decades, India has slipped on the labour force participation rate (LFPR) of females above 15 years despite an improving sex ratio. From 38% in 2001, LFPR of females has fallen to 26% in 2020, World Bank data shows. This fares poorly against 78% LFPR of males in India. A key reason for this gap is a higher participation rate for Indian women, than for men, in unpaid domestic duties. For India to shed its “Missing Women tag, it must invest in policies to ensure women are not missing in the workforce. Download.

politics 2021-11-29 Livemint