The Economic Survey 2017-18 reveals that Indian parents, still keen to have more and more male children, continue producing “until they have the desired number of sons”. The survey calls this phenomenon the son meta-preference, which involves parents adopting "fertility-stopping rules”, or having children until the desired number of sons are born.
The country’s sex ratio, skewed in favour of males, has led to the identification of “missing” women. But there may be a meta-preference manifesting itself in fertility-stopping rules, contingent on the sex of the last child, which notionally creates “unwanted” girls, estimated at about 21 million, the Survey adds. “Consigning these odious categories to history soon should be society's objective,” notes the Survey.
Among the startling facts revealed by the Survey is that the sex ratio of last birth (females per 100 births) has come down by 40 basis points from 39.4 per cent in 2005-06 to 39 per cent in 2015-16. The Survey suggests that women making their own income has seen no change in 10 years between 2005-06 and 20015-16. Only 13 per cent more women are getting educated – up from 59.4 per cent 10 years ago, to 72.5 per cent now.
Another startling observation in the Survey is that fewer women are now involved in decisions related to contraception.
Also noted is the fact that women’s employment has declined over time. “Another such area is in the use of female contraception: nearly 47 per cent of women do not use any contraception, and of those who do, less than a third use female-controlled reversible contraception. These outcomes can be disempowering, especially if they are the consequence of restrictions on reproductive agency”, noted the survey.
Poonam Mutreja from the Population Foundation of India (PFI), It is no surprise given that we are still focussing on sterilisation. Supply of care healthcare to provide sterilisation is dismal. It is ridiculous that we have not used 40 per cent of the budget for family planning remains unutilised. Making contraceptives available is very important and not yet available fully.