Women in India have assumed a greater role in domestic decision-making over the last decade, but there has been a drop in the number of employed women, and improved education levels are not in tune with development during the period, the Economic Survey 2018 shows.
The survey for fiscal 2017-18, tabled in Parliament on Monday, says that on 14 of the 17 indicators relating to agency, attitude and outcomes, India's score has improved over time.
On seven of them, the improvement is such that in the most recent period, India's performance is better than, or at par with that of other countries, accounting for the level of development.
The progress is most notable in women having a say in decision-making in household purchases and visiting family and relatives. There has been a decline in the experience of physical and sexual violence.
However, though education levels of women have improved dramatically it is incommensurate with development, the survey said.
In 2005-06, 59.4 per cent women were educated, which has gone up to 72.5 per cent in 2015-16.
The report noted that though India is lagging in terms of gender indicators, "it can expect to catch up with other countries as the wealth of Indian households increases."
There is a fall of 12.3 per cent in the number of employed women over the last decade. In 2005-06, 36.3 per cent of women were employed, and in 2015-16, this percentage went down to 24 per cent.
In the non-manual sector, however, there has been a growth in women's employment. In 2005-06, 18.9 per cent women were employed in non-manual sector, which went up to 28.2 per cent.
"Women's employment has declined over chronological time, and to a much greater extent in development time," the survey said.
It raised concerns over figures related to use of reversible female contraception, as it found that only 32.8 per cent of the surveyed women were using these. This ratio has also come down marginally by 1 per cent over the last decade, and in 2005-06, 33.8 per cent women were using reversible female contraceptives.
"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," the survey said.
"For their level of wealth, the use of reversible contraception methods among Indian women is 51.6 percentage points lower than it should be."
It added that since not many women use methods of reversible contraception, they have little control over when they start having children, but only seem to have control over when they stop having children.
The survey document expressed concern over the matter, but added that a more detailed analysis of the data on female contraception was beyond the scope of this study.
"These outcomes can be disempowering, especially if they are the consequence of restrictions on reproductive agency. Whether women "choose" or acquiesce in their limited choices are important and deeper questions but beyond the scope of this chapter."
The median age of women when they first got married was as low as 18.6 years, and the average age at the time of birth of the first child was 20.6 years. In 2005-06, the average age of first marriage among women was 17.3 years, and age at first child birth was 19.3 years.
Other findings of the survey show around 54 per cent women agreed that wife-beating was not acceptable, showing that a little less than half of the surveyed women felt beating wives is acceptable.
In a positive indicator, 93.6 per cent women have said they are not experiencing any sexual violence, and around 70.5 per cent women said they are not experiencing any emotional or physical violence.
In terms of decision-making, around 75 per cent women are involved in making decisions about their own health, 73.4 in decisions about large household purchases, and over 82 per cent decide what they will do with their own earnings.
Low political participation
The Economic Survey also called for more representation of women in decision making process in the country, saying their political participation has been low despite them accounting for 49 per cent of the population.
The survey for 2017-18 tabled in Parliament said factors such as domestic responsibilities, prevailing cultural attitudes regarding roles of women in society and lack of support from family were among main reasons that prevented them from entering politics.
"In a country like India with around 49 per cent of women in the population, the political participation of women has been low," it noted.
The survey said there are developing countries like Rwanda which has more than 60 per cent women representatives in Parliament in 2017.
Lack of confidence and finance were the other major deterring factors that prevented women from entering politics.