Of Women, for Women: India Urgently Needs a Gender Responsive Budget to Fix Disparity
In Budget 2020, we expect a heavy backing of women-oriented schemes, including the ones for building homes and shelters for widows, and a boost to existing flagship programmes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, ‘Mahila Shakti Kendras’ scheme, etc.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman holds budget papers during a photo opportunity as she leaves her office to present the federal budget in the parliament in New Delhi. (Image Reuters)
Human development indicators in India are unfairly skewed when it comes to gender equality. As per a report by the World Economic Forum, India ranks 122 among 153 countries when it comes to gender gap, pointing to a harsh reality.
Therefore, it is imperative that during policy making, gender inequality is tackled effectively through allocation of funds and making a Gender Responsive Budget (GRB). A GRB has two parts. One reflects schemes wholly dedicated to women with 100% allocation, while the other part is for women-related schemes with 30% allocation.
However, an increase of nearly 20% from 2016-17, making another leap of 12% from 2017-18 and then another hike in outlay from 2018-19 hints towards a positive development in the GRB.
In Budget 2020, we expect a heavy backing of women-oriented schemes, including the ones for building homes and shelters for widows, and a boost to existing flagship programmes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, ‘Mahila Shakti Kendras’ scheme, and the maternity benefit programme ‘Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana’.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development should, in fact, form a multi-pronged committee consisting of government officials, bureaucrats and private stakeholders to evaluate and tweak the budget through a gender-inclusive perspective.
Budget allocations have little effect in absence of a monitoring entity which ensures that the trickle-down effect actually works, and that there is actual on-ground alteration of the realities in a positive manner, where targeted expenditures actually come to fruition. Perhaps these targeted outlays should be complemented by a bottom-up approach with extensive contextual research and analysis.
We expect a significant outlay to address the literacy and labour force gap when it comes to gender, especially to increase labour force participation of women, which will significantly boost the GDP. As per a report by McKinsey, increasing the labour force participation of women by just 10% in India will add $700 billion to India’s GDP by 2025 (or a 1.4% increase), bringing us closer to the $5 trillion economy target. As per the WEF report, currently women comprise 24.8% of the workforce as compared to 81.6% of men.
As mentioned above, closing the literacy gap is of primary importance, (currently the gap is at 16.6%). Hence, allocating a significant outlay for schemes like ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’, ‘Sukanya Samridhhi Yojana’, ‘Balika Samriddhi Yojana’ will lead to a long-term value creation for the country, and diminish the gender inequality.
There is a dire need for a Gender Responsive Budget to address the defragmentation of gender development at the micro and sectoral level, and therefore the Ministry of Finance can make a roadmap with targets, processes and a budgetary backup.
A regulatory mechanism overseeing this, while forecasting with precision about budget utilisation dynamics, would go a long way in increasing GRB’s efficiency. The gender budget also needs to focus on specific industries and departments, keeping in mind employment of women in that sector and schemes existent in that sector targeted towards women.
There should be a larger quantum of budget allocation towards revenue and tax benefits along with social security blankets to incentivise more women to join the labour force. There is universal consensus that such a scenario would have torrential benefits for the entire ecosystem.
I expect the government to follow the trend of increasing the GRB significantly, and focus on rural women empowerment, formalising of the labour force consisting of women and ensure monitoring of these allocations for maximum effectiveness. In the coming future, I hope to see a binding legal status for the GRB exercise, which, should be outcome oriented, aligned with global goals and have complete government involvement. I am confident that the government will take positive steps in this direction.
Author is Chief Sustainability, CSR and Communications officer ReNew Power. Views are personal.
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