Until very recently, the figures of the ratio between the categorical gender division between the two conventional sexes has been disappointing, to say the least.
The gap has posthumously been depicted as an ever widened rift that can sparsely be narrowed. However, this year’s National Family Health Survey revealed that the gender disparity had come down by a significant amount.
The new development has led to Indians all over rejoicing as it points towards the fact that unlike other years, women are finally being provided with a safe space in the country. However, much of the pomp and ado about the survey awaits being laid to rest. NFHS’ data cannot be considered as the fiat truth, and it is only fair to wait for the National Census.
What Is The NFHS?
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) can be essentially referred to as a multifarious survey conducted by batches of surveyors on the basis of phases. These surveys are conducted on a household-by-household basis that elaborate and provides a skeleton for the demographic index to base itself on.
The survey held this year has been reported to have been the fifth such edition of the survey thus conducted since 1992, the year of its inception.
According to the job description of the NFHS, it ensures that the data conceived from the survey is further provided to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The data thus obtained is then formulated and tabled to act upon the necessary developments required for the overall astute development of the country on both macro and micro levels.
Development, however, is not limited to the sex ratio as fertility, the practice of family planning, reproductive health, nutrition alongside other such denominators of overall public welfare play an equal role.
To put matters into perspective, the NFHS describes itself as;
“The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India. The survey provides state and national information for India on fertility, infant and child mortality, the practice of family planning, maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition, anaemia, utilization and quality of health and family planning services.”
With the nodal agency based out of Mumbai, the International Institute for Population Sciences provides the survey personnel with coordination and technical guidance.
The IIPS employs the help of multiple other such organizations and/or field operatives that provide the MOHFW with their findings from different states. Most of these organizations, till date, have been prolific NGOs and other such global relief bodies such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF, respectively.
What Did The Findings In The 2021 NFHS Reveal?
According to the findings published by the survey, the data bears significance and concludes that the sex ratio gap between the two sexes has finally been overcome.
The data depicts that there are 1020 women per 1000 men in India, which has been recorded as the best figures concerning the sex ratio when compared to the previous four editions of the NFHS. The data had been, perceivably, obtained from 636,699 households wherein they surveyed 724,115 women and 101,839 men.
Furthermore, according to the data presented in the survey, the survey conducted by 17 field agencies recorded that there exist 1037 women per 1000 men in India’s rural villages.
The fieldwork done for the surveys transpired in two phases- Phase 1 began from June 17, 2019-January 30, 2020, while Phase 2 began from January 2, 2020-April 30, 2021. Owing to the pandemic, the real figures varied greatly with the figures available.
Owing to the fact that the second phase of the survey was held at the peak of the pandemic, not much could be said objectively. During this phase, most of the migrant labourers successfully returned home.
Thus, they were counted in the same vein as one would count a regular villager. However, these labourers fell under the vast conscripts of the many who had migrated to urban areas.
Considering it as fact, the possibility of the said labourers being considered twice in the same survey does not seem too far fetched. Thus, it is pertinent to remember that the NFHS is just a structural summary of the country at large and not the essential framework for a demographic as it is being portrayed.
Why Should We Wait For The Census?
According to the Census conducted in 2011, there exist 933 women for every 1000 men in India. The figures are fairly average and it had been foretold then that the numbers would improve over time. Upon the turn of the decade, the figures have been predicted to undergo certain improvements, however, it is still too early to state how extensive the improvements may be.
It is advisable to await the results of the Census owing to numerous reasons, however, the most pertinent being the fact that this survey boils down to being limited to a couple of households that provide a basis for a reasonable assumption concerning the general demographic.
Furthermore, the factsheet or the figures are based on de facto enumerations which basically means that the demographic numbers were accounted for only with the number of men and women present in the households on the last night of the survey.
It must also be noted that owing to the fact that the NFHS is a survey at the end of the day, it is based on the pretext of sampling. The entire narrative of sampling deems the sex ratio to be an effective estimate as null and void, owing to the sample sizes differing with each state and Union Territory.
To put matters into perspective, the sample size of a certain Union Territory will always be lesser than a state. Thus, to put a cap on the sex ratio as definite based sample sizes gives rise to an uneven and inaccurate pretext to decide upon an issue as significant.
According to Jashodhara Dasgupta, a sex ratio expert, the census figures are much more reliable and the NFHS figures should be taken with a grain of salt. They do provide a basic idea concerning the demographic however they are seldom definitive.
On the flip side, with the census, the figures may be deemed accurate as it inculcates the entirety of the population and then the ratio is calculated with the entire populace in mind. Dasgupta stated;
“NFHS counts only certain women, who belong to specific demographic categories. There is a bias in it. Just look at the state figures where the sample size is too small. We will have to wait for the next census figures to get a clearer picture.”
Hence, with the decade coming to a close since the 2011 census, it is only fair for us to await the release of the report. If the sex ratio does genuinely narrow down and go on an upward trajectory, we will have finally achieved something of great significance as a country. However, until then, let the celebrations fizzle out.
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This post is tagged under: sex ratio, nfhs, national family health survey, iips, mumbai, haryana, uttar pradesh, sexism, misogyny, indian government, governance, modi, narendra modi, census, census 2021, ministry of health and family welfare, mohfw, mansukh mandaviya, bharti pawar, demographic, demography