For the first time ever, the Economic Survey 2017-18 highlighted that the Indian desire to have a male child has created an estimated 21 million unwanted girls. The Economic Survey released on Monday pointed out that most parents continued to have children until they get the desired number of sons.

The Survey gave details of various scenarios leading to skewed sex ratios and also gave a comparison on sex ratio by birth between India and Indonesia. The Survey highlighted that Indian parents still prefer having a son over a daughter. The Survey included a chapter dedicated to Gender Issues “Gender and Son Meta-Preference: Is Development Itself an Antidote?” also began with #MeToo inscribed on top of the page.
“This ‘meta-preference’ leads naturally to the notional category of ‘unwanted’ girls with reduced access to resources. Another phenomenon of son meta preference, which involves parents adopting fertility ‘stopping rules’ ~ having children until the desired number of sons are born,” the report said.

In some sense, once born, the lives of women are improving but society still appears to want fewer of them to be born. India has some distance to traverse because development has not proved to be an antidote,” said Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian at a media interaction after the Survey was tabled in Parliament on Monday.

The Survey noted that the government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Sukanya Samridhi Yojana schemes and mandatory maternity leave rules are all steps in the right direction to recognising the long-run objective of elevating the role and status of women.

Son preference is giving rise to skewed sex ratios at birth and beyond, leading to an estimate of 63 million “missing” women, it said in the report. In a first, the government has used a pink cover for the Economic Survey 2018, stressing on its “commitment to women’s empowerment”. The findings come at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme on Sunday, spoke at length about women’s empowerment and how they are moving ahead in all fields. Modi mentioned the achievements of Flying Officers Bhavna Kanth, Mohana Singh and Avani Chaturvedi, who became the first women to be commissioned as fighter pilots.

The Survey noted that the North-Eastern states have been consistently outperforming others on the development parameters related to women, while hinterland states are lagging behind.
However, surprisingly, some southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu fare worse than expected given their level of development, it said.
The percentage of women who did not experience physical or emotional violence also increased from 63 per cent to 71 per cent, whereas the median age at first childbirth also increased by 1.3 years over ten years.