Public Investment Towards Promoting Women's Livelihoods: An Assessment
Creation of employment and livelihood opportunities has been recognized in national policies and programmes as an important instrument to promote gender equality. Consequently, efforts towards strengthening women’s participation in the economy have focused on ensuring equal remuneration for women, creation of livelihood opportunities through wage employment programmes, ensuring conducive working conditions, and promoting entrepreneurship development. However, despite these efforts women’s participation in the sphere of livelihoods is marked by sharp gender based inequities, reflected in gaps in male and female labour force participation and economic participation rates in the country.
The paper is structured in three sections. It begins with a discussion on the magnitude of overall public spending in India, arguing that the fiscal policy in the country has been rather constrained, owing primarily to a low tax-GDP ratio. It argues that in view of women’s higher dependence on public provisioning of essential services, limited government spending, especially on social sectors, is likely to have a disproportionately adverse impact on them. This also has implications for the employment opportunities and unpaid care work performed by women. The second section discusses the need for gender responsive budgeting and highlights the efforts at GRB by the Union Government in two important sectors pertaining to women’s livelihoods, i.e., agriculture and public works (i.e. MGNREGA). The third section briefly outlines key concerns with women’s engagement as service providers in some flagship programmes of the Government of India. It highlights the excessive reliance on under paid labour of women, for implementation of these programmes.