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21 million is the number of girls parents did not want: first such national data

The number has been arrived at by looking at the sex ratio of the last child (SRLC) which is heavily male-skewed, indicating that parents keep having children until they get the desired number of sons.

Written by Shalini Nair | New Delhi | Updated: January 30, 2018 5:35 pm
sex ratio, unwanted girls, srlc, sex ratio of last child, male child preferance, daughters, sex selection, female feoticide, indian express The number has been arrived at by looking at the sex ratio of the last child (SRLC) which is heavily male-skewed, indicating that parents keep having children until they get the desired number of sons. (AP Photo/Representational)

The Economic Survey presents the first ever estimate of the number of ‘unwanted’ girls in India — girls whose parents wanted a boy but had a girl instead — at 21 million. The number has been arrived at by looking at the sex ratio of the last child (SRLC) which is heavily male-skewed, indicating that parents keep having children until they get the desired number of sons.

The Survey points out that the huge number of ‘unwanted girls’ (in the 0-25 age group in the population currently) is a direct outcome of the ‘son meta preference’ where parents do not stop having children after having a daughter.

The idea is based on a bunch of papers published in 2017 by development economist Seema Jayachandran of Northwestern University. While the ‘son meta preference’ does not lead to sex-selective abortion, the Survey 21 million is the number of girls parents did not want: first such national data sums up Jayachandran’s paper to state that it is “detrimental to female children because it may lead to fewer resources devoted to them”.

Read | Thrust areas: Economic convergence, gender inequality, climate change

The biologically determined natural sex ratio at birth is 1.05 boy for every girl. The Survey points out that in India, the sex ratio of the last child is skewed towards male all throughout — for first-born, it is 1.82, 1.55 for second born, 1.65 for third child and so on.

sex ratio, unwanted girls, srlc, sex ratio of last child, male child preferance, daughters, sex selection, female feoticide, indian express

 

The report compares India’s heavily-skewed-in-favour-of-boys SRLC to that of Indonesia, where the sex ratio at birth is close to the biological ideal, irrespective of whether the last child is a boy or a girl.

The estimate on the notionally “unwanted girls” goes beyond the Amartya Sen framework of “missing women” (owing to sex selective abortion or girl children who die owing to deliberate neglect). Using Sen’s methodology of sex ratio difference, as devised in 1990, the Survey pegs the number of “missing women” as of 2014 at 63 million, an increase from the 37 million as per Sen’s estimate.

The sex ratio of last birth (females per hundred births) has merely changed from 39.5 per cent to 39 per cent between 2005-06 and 2015-16. It is among two of the 17 gender indicators used in the Survey that fails to show any decadal improvement with an increase in wealth — the other being the effect on women’s employment.

Also read | 2014 hope to 2018 realism: Economic Survey story

Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, the proportion of women who took up paid work has gone down from 36 per cent to 24 per cent, making India a glaring outlier in this respect. One of the main reasons for this continues to be the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work that falls on women, including looking after elders and children.

The Survey points out that following the implementation of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, 1994, which outlawed sex selection, India has seen a relatively stable sex ratio at birth (SRB). The SRLC, as an indicator, points to the continued societal preferences for a male child.

The Survey looks at both SRB and SRLC to state that in Meghalaya, both indicators are close to the ideal benchmark. Likewise, Kerala does not seem to practise sex selective abortions as their SRB is close to the ideal benchmark but the son preference is evident in a skewed SRLC, while Punjab and Haryana, two of the richest states, have a highly skewed SRB and SRLC.

Using data from the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) and National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the Survey states that over the last 10-15 years, India’s performance has improved on 14 out of 17 indicators of women’s agency, attitudes, and outcomes.

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  1. U Nandakumar Narath
    Jan 30, 2018 at 6:15 pm
    Very true. India to grow and develop as facilitator of Global growth development as PM highlighted at Davos or the Hon'ble President in the Republic Day message, we have to make efforts to preserve its gender equality ( from time immemorial we consider women with respect and equal to men as child, sister, wife and as mother ), secularism ( treating all religions with equal respects) , socialism ( providing equality for people irrespective of their economic or social status ) and democracy (to maintain our status as largest democracy in the world ).
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    1. Susanta Basu
      Jan 30, 2018 at 2:49 pm
      This is a foolish research and known as research for research shake. After all guides should have something in shop so this type of shows go on
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      1. M
        Martina
        Jan 30, 2018 at 2:35 pm
        Hi friends, Not only in giving birth to the male child is important after that, there are also preferences even more given to male child than female child even nowadays. As they want the girl to get married and go away from the parents. And most of the cases Male child chases the girl child out and says he has all the rights to take care of his mom and the girl who got married has nothing more to take care of her parents and the she belongs to the house whom she got married with. Even the parents accepts this statement and be with the son Always and always female gets cornered everywhere and parents also doesnt open their mouths when the girl child is abused in this manner. Please change these thoughts that when girl get married she doesnt belongs to the other family. She is your child how can she be others. THINK PARENTS. GIRLS ARE IMPORTANT AS BOYS. THEY ARE EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN BOYS AS THE PARENT YOU ONCE YOU GO OLD AND BOYS CANNOT DO AS GIRLS DOES. PLEASEPARENTSDOLOVEGIRLS
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        1. Vinod Behari Lal
          Jan 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm
          That parents prefer boys over girls is the old narrative. For the new one, please see what is happening to girls/women of the age from 8 months to 85 years and what do the CMs and Home Ministers of the concerned state and political "leaders' irrespective of the party they belong to say or do after such incidents? Do the leaders and public,correctly worrying over the distorted sex-ratio, ever wonder what it means to bring up a girl in India today? Is there any respite from the goondas of all shades? A Rathore, the ex- police-boss of Haryana convicted by none less than the SC, gets a front seat in the most prestigious state function, the Republic Day, and the CM feigns ignorance about who invited him! Going further he adds with good measure that he would find out the rules about how a convicted person should be treated on such occasions!
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          1. A
            Anjana
            Jan 30, 2018 at 1:31 pm
            One can also say that people stop having children when they have a boy child because they don't want anymore boy children. And by this interpretation it will seem like people prefer girl children more as they continue having children as long as they are girls and stop when they have boys. The logic of the article is flawed. Last child ratio does not say anything about anything.
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            1. A
              Atif
              Jan 30, 2018 at 4:30 pm
              Interpretations can be many but the logic used by the writer sounds more close to typical "Indian" mentality than what you are suggesting Anjana :) your logic may be true to an extent in Western world.
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              1. A
                Anjana
                Jan 30, 2018 at 7:25 pm
                2 2 is 4 in the West and 4 in India also. Logic is universal Atif :) Just because the last child is male doesn't mean that all the preceding children(girl or boy) were unwanted.
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                  Anjana
                  Jan 30, 2018 at 7:26 pm
                  2 2 is 4 in the West and 4 in India also. Logic is universal Atif :) Just because the last child is male doesn't mean that all the preceding children (boy or girl) were unwanted.
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