ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Where Is Gender in Eleventh Plan Approach Paper?

The draft approach paper to the Eleventh Five-Year Plan fails to address the issue of widening gender disparities and no/low achievements for women and does not recognise the macroeconomic dimension of human development.

Where Is Gender in Eleventh Plan Approach Paper?

The draft approach paper to the Eleventh Five-Year Plan fails to address the issue of widening gender disparities and no/low achievements for women and does not recognise the macroeconomic dimension of human development.


he theme of the draft approach paper to the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-12) titled ‘Towards Faster and More Inclusive Growth’ is indeed very attractive. At this stage of development, India definitely needs faster and more inclusive growth. The question, however, is whether the strategy underlying the approach paper ensures a more inclusive growth or not. That is, whether the underlying approach will be able to include the excluded – the poor, the woman, dalits and others.

Approach Paper

The approach paper starts by stating that the Indian economy is in a much stronger position today than before, with the average growth rate of about 7 per cent in the Tenth Plan. The reasonably high rates of savings (28 per cent) and investment (27.5 per cent), comfortable position of foreign exchange reserves (at US $ 151.6 billion) and low rate of inflation (about 4.8 per cent) during the Tenth Plan has put the economy in a position to grow faster, at

8.5 per cent in the coming years. The economy is now poised to grow at 9.9 per cent in industry, 9.4 per cent in services and 4 per cent in agriculture.

The approach paper admits that in spite of these growth rates, “large parts of the population are still to experience a decisive improvement in their standard of living”. There is, therefore, a need to include these lagging and excluded sections of the population as well as the lagging regions in the mainstream of economic growth. The Eleventh Plan, with its “new vision” aims at a more inclusive growth by addressing disparities between rural and urban areas, between rich and poor states and between poor and non-poor groups. The strategy envisaged in the plan, however, largely depends on raising the rate of growth of the economy by following the same growth path based on the neo-liberal policies. As the approach paper mentions, “there are three broad sources of growth, namely, accumulation of physical capital, accumulation of human capital (i e, labour) and increase in productivity due to technical changes (i e, technology). Based on this approach, the paper discusses acceleration of agricultural growth, industrial growth and service sector growth. It also adds development of infrastructure as an important component of economic growth.

It is argued in the paper that along with sectoral policies, aimed at improving livelihood support and employment, a strategy of inclusiveness and broad-based participation in development process also is needed. Such a strategy “calls for new emphasis on education, health and other basic public facilities”. The section on “strategic initiatives for inclusive development” describes how education and health can be promoted through special interventions or programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, adult education programmes, programmes on secondary education and on technical training, children’s programmes, etc, as well as through rural health mission, and programmes like Bharat Nirman, which includes investments in irrigation, rural roads, housing, electricity, water supply, etc.

The paper also finds it necessary to ensure that the growth addresses “the divides between rural and urban areas, between prosperous and lagging areas, between poor and non-poor, between socially backward castes/tribes and others, etc. In the section on ‘Bridging the Divides’ ”, the approach paper describes the interventions like employment programmes, the rural national employment guarantee act, selfemployment programmes, etc, as well as major infrastructure programmes like national urban renewal mission (NURM), Bharat Nirman for the deprived and lagging regions. The exclusion of the scheduled castes and tribes, minorities and women is to be addressed in the plan through special programmes and schemes.

“Gender Balancing”, which intends “to take care of special needs of women”, such as “clean cooking fuels, care of pregnant and nursing women, etc”, is to be ensured through different schemes and programmes across different ministries and departments of the government. The paper also mentions three more special needs of women: fighting violence against women, economic empowerment (through special programmes) and women’s health through intervention to reduce the incidence of anaemia, malnutrition and material mortality.

Overlooking the Dynamics of Exclusion

One important aspect of development that the approach paper seems to have overlooked is the dynamics of exclusion, i e, the processes that have led to the exclusion of the excluded.

Along with the rising economic growth rates, the economy has experienced deceleration and deterioration in many areas related to poverty and human development. To start with, there is a clear deceleration in the rate of decline in the incidence of poverty in the post-economic reforms period. The incidence of poverty declined from 36 per cent in 1993-94 to 28 per cent 2004-05. This implies that poverty has declined by 0.74 per cent per year in spite of the high rate of growth of the economy. Again, the achievements in human development in terms of increase in literacy, decline in infant mortality, improvements in child health and nutrition and decline in maternal mortality, etc, have been very small as compared to the same during the decade before the reforms. As a result, the male literacy rate is still 71.1 per cent, the female literacy rate is still as low as 53.7 per cent, school attendance is still 71.1 per cent (implying about 30 per cent of children between 6 and 11 years do not attend school) and infant mortality is still 60! There is an absolute deterioration in some fields like juvenile sex ratio!

Again, there are poor achievements on the employment front: On the one hand,

Economic and Political Weekly August 12, 2006

there is a slow rate of growth of employment in spite of a higher growth of GDP, while on the other, there has been informalisation of labour market, resulting in the deterioration of quality of employment on a large scale. Clearly, the growth process under the neoliberal policies has not generated enough employment in the economy. It has not really included the un/underemployed labour force in the purview of productive employment.

The other areas of deceleration and deterioration have been (1) environmental resources, which have degraded and depleted and (2) inequalities of incomes and growth across regions and different socioeconomic groups, including men and women. The approach paper has also drawn attention to the rising inequalities in the economy by providing the relevant data.

In short, there is a clear weakening of the linkages between economic growth and poverty reduction, economic growth and human well-being/human development, economic growth and employment, etc, and therefore, between economic growth and inclusiveness of development. Clearly, there is something wrong with the dynamics of growth processes, the growth model that has been adopted under the neoliberal policies. In other words, there is a need to modify the growth process, the growth model based on neoliberal policies, so as to make it inclusive. Inclusion calls for changes in the macroeconomic model, as exclusion has its roots in the development model itself.

This also implies that designing special schemes and programmes, that tinker with the system will not be adequate. Such propoor, pro-women or pro-excluded programmes will have only a temporary and limited impact. Things will not change unless the dynamics of growth changes in a way that strengthens the links between economic growth and human development.

As far as “gender balancing” is concerned, there is a need to engender the development processes to strengthen the links between economic growth and gender development.

Problems with Established Development Paradigm

The approach paper, while describing the underlying growth model, states that there are three sources of growth: capital, labour and technology. Under the market-friendly policies of neoliberal paradigm, i e, liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, this approach is expected to promote “inclusive” economic growth.

The “sources of growth” do not include natural capital, which is a major capital and a major source of livelihood of the masses in the economy. Its development or degradation can make a big difference to the life of the masses. However, environment comes into the discussion in the approach paper only when “it is damaged by economic growth” and there is a need to “deal with environmental problems”. The concept of sustainable development that integrates natural capital with the development process, that strengthens the links between environmental regeneration and economic growth, is totally out of the purview of this model.

In the same way, under the approach paper, employment is a by-product of economic growth that is expected to come largely through capital-intensive technology. Though one agrees that there is a need to improve labour productivity of workers and employment growth should come from higher rate of economic growth with improved technology, the continuously increasing capital intensity (that focuses on labour-saving technology), cannot really take care of massive un/underemployment in the economy. The foreign direct investment (FDI) that comes with highly capital-intensive technology may not always be welcome in a labour-surplus economy. In other words, there is a need to keep productive employment as a goal in itself. The established model based on the neoliberal policies does not seem to agree with this.

And lastly, the asymmetry in the population like between men and women, cannot be addressed adequately by “neutral” policies. The asymmetries represent structures that do not allow trickle down of economic growth to the different sections of the population. For example, genderneutral macro policies or gender-neutral growth processes will fail to trickle down to women, as they will not address the specific needs and potentials of women. Economic growth does not trickle down to men and women equally when the differences are structural differences. “Gender equality” or “gender balancing” can be achieved only by engendering the development model.

In other words, inclusive growth comes from inclusion of relevant structures into the development model and not through special schemes and programmes designed outside the model.

Health and Education as Macroeconomic Variables

The approach paper assumes that the well-being of the excluded can be ensured through a variety of special programmes and schemes. A long list of programmes on education and health is set out in this context.

It needs to be understood, however, that the health and education status in an economy primarily depends on an enabling macro environment, and in that sense, they are macroeconomic variables. The pattern of growth, the fiscal policies and constraints as well as the agricultural policy, industrial policy, infrastructure policy, etc, have a significant impact on the health and education status of the population.

In the case of India, it has been observed that macro policies have impacted on environment on a significant scale, resulting in depletion and degradation of several natural resources. The growth model has also influenced the ownership as well as the allocation and use of these resources by the different sections of the population

– all of which have impacted on the wellbeing of people. The crisis of fuelwood, fodder and water has made women spend hours on collecting these basic necessities leaving little time for productive employment on the one hand and affecting their health and safety adversely on the other. Industrial pollution in major industrial centres (which is related to the policy of promoting industrial growth almost at any cost) is known to be affecting health of both men and women adversely. The increasing seasonal migration, which is known to be a major factor responsible for poor achievements in human development of the excluded, is taking place largely due to the environmental degradation, which is caused by the growth process. In short, unless one addresses the policies that have been responsible for environmental degradation, it is difficult to increase school enrolment and school retention rates of children or improve health and nutrition of the poor, including women and children.

It is difficult to understand how women are expected to be “included” when they walk long distances to collect fuel, fodder and water; when they migrate out for six to eight months in a year, when their

Economic and Political Weekly August 12, 2006 livelihoods, which are linked with natural resources, are destroyed; when their ownership of these resources is almost nil and when their access to the use of the resources is declining under the massive pressure from the growth processes.

The growth process in the economy has also caused the employment crisis, as well as the agricultural and rural crisis. It has also increased disparities across regions and across socio-economic groups. All these consequences have an impact on human development achievements, resulting in the deceleration in the achievements on the recent decades. The reversal in the trend need reversal of the growth processes.

Again, an important consequence of the neoliberal policies is the financial crunch of the government, caused by the compulsions of the model. This has led to the reductions in social sector expenditures or to an inadequate social expenditure on the one hand and rising costs of public services to the poor on the other. The public private partnership (PPP) model in basic public services, as recommended in the approach paper, and privatisation of basic services under the established model will add to the crisis in human development. This shirking of its basic responsibilities by the government under the model will definitely harm the interests of the excluded, including women. Unfortunately, the approach paper does not recognise this macroeconomic dimension of human development!

The exclusion of women, reflected in the rising inequalities between men and women on the one hand and their no/low achievements during the post-reforms period on the other hand, cannot be answered by the strategies incorporated in the approach paper. The perfunctory discussion on “gender balancing” in the approach paper reflects the poor commitment of planners to gender empowerment and gender development.

Engenderment of Development Model

Since gender is a macroeconomic variable, it needs to be incorporated in the growth model. Engenderment of the growth model has two major implications: treating women not only as consumers, but also as mainstream producers of “economic” goods as well as “non-economic goods” that contribute to development. The first implies recognition of women as producers of market goods and services and therefore, integrating male-female differences in their constraints and potentials into development policies. The second implies incorporating unpaid work as a macroeconomic variable as it contributes to the well-being of the population on the one hand and to human capital formation on the other.

Another major implication of engenderment will be to include gender dimension into all major macro policies like fiscal, trade, agricultural, industrial, infrastructure, labour and employment, etc. This needs to be achieved through incorporating the specific needs and constraints of men and women in policy designing on the one hand and examining the impact of these policies on men and women separately while monitoring these policies on the other.

Engenderment of development policies cannot be brought about merely by a separate department of women (and child?1) engaged in designing special programmes for women, but its inclusion in the growth model and in all macroeconomic policy-making and policy monitoring. The ultimate goal in gender equality is to see that men and women have equitable access to, and benefits from society’s resources, opportunities and rewards; and equal participation in influencing what is valued and in shaping directions and decisions.

Engenderment thus needs an enabling macroeconomic environment, conducive sectoral policies, backed by special interventions in terms of programmes and schemes whenever needed. Engenderment needs to be reflected first at the macro level and then at all the other levels, sectoral level and micro level.

Some Disturbing Elements

The approach paper contains some disturbing elements as far as gender equality is concerned. To start with, the focus of the approach is mainly directed to enabling the private corporate sector to perform well to meet the growth targets. For example, the agricultural policy has nothing to say about the recent land policy changes, introduced in most state economies, leading to the increasing ownership of land by private corporate sector, or about incorporating small and marginal farmers in the mainstream agricultural growth; the infrastructure policy pays more attention to the needs of the private sector than to the basic needs of the poor; the programmes like NURM and Bharat Nirman pay attention mainly to the needs of the private capital.

Secondly, some specific areas, which are extremely relevant to the women’s well-being and their development are totally neglected in the approach paper. For example, there is nothing on disasters and conflicts of which women are the worst victims. This is a serious exclusion in our disaster-prone country. Studies after studies have shown that women are the worst sufferers of disasters and poor beneficiaries of rescue, reconstruction and rehabilitation. There is a need to develop a gender-centred policy of fighting as well as mitigating disasters of different kinds – be it natural, man-made or conflicts based.

Women’s unpaid work is another major exclusion in the approach paper. It is now well accepted that women’s “non-economic” unpaid work contributes to human welfare as well as to economic growth through its contribution to human capital formation. However, this same work constrains women’s equal opportunities in life. It restrains women’s participation in the labour market and also denies equal opportunities in life. It would have been only proper if the approach paper had addressed this major dimension of women in its text. Unfortunately, the paper is totally silent on it.

In conclusion, exclusion of women or of some sections of the population or some regions is a consequence of the macro growth processes. Their inclusion, therefore, calls for changing the growth processes, the development paradigm. Interventions outside the growth model will only tinker with the system, they will not lead to more inclusive growth. “Gender Balancing” therefore, calls for an engenderment of the development model and not just special schemes and programmes. The links between economic growth and human development/ poverty reduction can be forged only by moving to a new model of development. The approach paper, therefore, is a disappointment.




1 It is not proper to tag children’s development with women’s development. Both are independent issues that need to be addressed separately.

Economic and Political Weekly August 12, 2006

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top