Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharman on Tuesday tabled the Economic Survey 2022-23 in the Parliament. The survey paints quite an optimistic picture of gender inclusion, quoting the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index (GII). The GII component, which was part of UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) 2021, ranked India the 122nd out of 190 countries.

“On the parameter of gender inequality, India’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) value is 0.490 in 2021 and is ranked 122. This score is better than that of the South Asian region (value 0.508) and close to the world average of 0.465. This reflects the government’s initiatives and investments towards more inclusive growth, social protection, and gender-responsive development policies,” says the survey.

The GII takes into account five components—maternal mortality ratio (deaths per 1,00,000 live births), adolescent birth rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15–19), the share of seats in parliament by women, the proportion of women above 25 with secondary school education and women’s labour force participation rate.

However, the survey did not take note of the fact that India’s GII value fell from 0.493 in 2020 to 0.490 in 2021. In 1991, it was 0.711. Also, the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report ranks India 135th out of 146 countries in gender parity in 2022. This report too assessed countries on similar parameters — economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

While India bagged the 87th rank in 2016, its ranks started falling greatly since 2020.

Both UNDP and WEF noted a low share in women’s labour force participation rate. The Periodic Labour Force Survey’s 2020-21 annual report says that the labour force participation rate among Indian women is just 23.15 per cent, in contrast to 57.75 per cent in men.

Commenting on this, the survey notes, “The common narrative of Indian women’s low LFPR misses the reality of working females integral to the economy of the household and the country.” It says PLFS doesn’t take note of women engaged in domestic duties and in the free collection of goods for household use and that taking note of this would improve women’s LFPR.

The economic survey also says that in terms of nominal and real wages in rural India, the pay gap between men and women appears large. This is despite a 7.5 per cent and 3.7 per cent y-o-y growth in nominal agricultural and non-agricultural wages, respectively.