Mains Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Sept Week 1
Withdrawal of Working Women in India
- It’s the big whodunnit of our times — what is causing Indian women to withdraw from paid work?
- Over the last decade, an already low female labour force participation rate continued to fall steadily.
- India is an embarrassing standout for its income level, where it is barely ahead of Pakistan and some Arab nations.
- The latest periodic labour force survey of 2017-18 shows that only about 23% of working-age women are employed, down from 31% in 2011-12 and 43% in 2004-05.
- Studies show that women are dropping out at all levels of education, age and income, but it is working-age rural women who have retreated dramatically — from 49% in 2004-05 to 36% in 2011-12 and now 25% in 2017-18.
- Some of the low levels of women’s work participation can be explained by systematic underestimating.
- A majority of women work in a grey zone: not in paid labour outside the home, but yet contributing to the family livelihood.
- She might be doing piece-rate work at home, or putting in irregular stints at a construction site — but neither she nor her family would identify this as proper work to surveyors.
The first and biggest reason: education.
- School enrolment increased across caste and gender in the last 10-15 years, drawing in girls who might have been child labourers, and keeping them in school.
- When Naandi Foundation surveyed over 70,000 teenaged girls across India last year, it found that three out of four did not want to get married till 21, and seven out of 10 want a graduate degree.
- They do not want to work in fields or do the manual work their mothers did, but their aspirations have run smack into the forbidding walls of the job market.
Greater mechanisation in agriculture
- It displaces some of the winnowing and threshing work that women do.
- Between 2004-5 and 2011-12, real wages rose because of nonagricultural jobs growing and overall peak investment, and many women stayed back in the household because they could.
- Open unemployment is at a 45-year high of 6.1%, and even their brothers are not finding jobs.
- A lot of women are simply disheartened and not even looking for jobs. Construction work has fallen, and manufacturing jobs — especially labour-intensive ones like textiles, where women work — have fallen between 2012 and 2018.
- We must not hold women responsible for dropping out of the labour market — where are the opportunities for them?
- Women’s jobs are seen as more dispensable, and are lower-paid.
- In urban areas, domestic work is the one area that has grown, and education and retail also employ many women.
- Among urban working women, the share of regular, salaried jobs has increased from 35.6% in 2004 to 52.1% in 2017. But in the 15-29 age group, nearly 27% of urban women are unemployed and seeking work.
- While there is no all-encompassing solution to boost women’s work participation, many experts feel that scaling up paid care-work would be a hugely worthwhile intervention.
- Asha, Anganwadi and midday meal workers make up nearly a crore of women, who bear heavy responsibilities for the community’s nutrition and health, early childhood and maternal care but are not recognised as fixed workers.
- The government of India spends barely 1.2% of the GDP on health, roughly 3% on education.
- These are labour intensive sectors that employ women. Simply investing in human capital will create jobs, especially for women.
- Expanding this network of community frontline workers, and strengthening health and education and social services would not only directly employ women, it would shift the burden from the bulk of women who work at home without pay, and undergird the paid work of others.
- It is an investment in future citizens, and what’s more, these are jobs that are unlikely to be rendered obsolete by technological change.
- Childcare is not the primary hurdle for women in India as it is in the West, it’s also domestic chores and eldercare, but increasing public spending on this traditionally unpaid “women’s work” is clearly a way forward.
- But women need a fair shot at all kinds of employment. Prioritising sectors where women are employed and making room in others is essential.
- If Indian women had the same work participation rates as men, Oxfam estimates the GDP would rise by 43%.
- Their low presence in the workforce is proof of persisting inequality, and the loss is collective.
WHY WOMEN ARE FALLING OUT OF WORK
- Girls are more educated than before, and have higher job expectations.
- Non-literate women and those with college degrees tend to work more than those in the middle
- Social norms mean that as wages climb above subsistence-level, married women are expected to focus on the home
- Agriculture is increasingly mechanised, especially the work that women do
- There are now fewer opportunities in construction, and manufacturing is stagnant
- Men crowd women out of many service jobs, especially in a high-pressure labour market
- Transportation and stay options block their travelling out for skilling and work.
Food for all
- The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a plea that starvation deaths continue to eat into the right to life and dignity of social fabric and a “radical” new measure like community kitchens need to be set up across the country to feed the poor and the hungry.
- The petition said State-funded community kitchen was not a novel concept in the country.
- They pointed out how Tamil Nadu’s Amma Unavagam had become a roaring success by involving peers in self-help groups, employing the poor to serve hygienic food to eradicate the gnawing problem of hunger on the streets.
- It also referred to how Rajasthan’s Annapurna Rasoi, Indira Canteens in Karnataka, Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Canteen, Anna Canteen in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand Mukhyamantri Dal Bhat and Odisha’s Ahaar Centre were combating starvation and malnutrition.
- While there are statistics available for malnutrition deaths in children and adults in the country, there is no official data available for death of persons owing to starvation.
- Food and Agriculture Report, 2018 stated that India houses 195.9 million of the 821 million undernourished people in the world, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s hungry.
- Prevalence of undernourishment in India is 14.8%, higher than both the global and Asian average.
- It urged the court to direct Chief Secretaries across the country to formulate schemes for the implementation of community kitchens and to further ensure that “no person should sleep on an empty stomach”.
- It called for the creation of a national food grid by the Centre that would be beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme.
India faces higher mortality from cardiovascular diseases
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death across the world, but there are significant variations between rich and poor nations.
- While in high-income countries, deaths from cancer are twice that of CVD, in low-income countries, including India, deaths from cardiac disease were three times that of cancer.
- Additionally, indoor or household air pollution has been identified as a key cause of CVD, research papers published in the Lancet has shown.
The PURE study:
- The PURE study, which was also presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, tracked over 1,62,000 individuals, aged 35-70, living in 21 countries across five continents, over about 9.5 years.
- The mortality was highest in the Low Income Countries (LIC) despite lower risk factors, and lowest in the High Income Countries (HIC).
- The fact that cancer deaths are now twice as frequent as CVD deaths in HIC indicates a transition in the predominant causes of death in middle age.
- The study establishes that though risk factors are lower in low income countries, factors such as access to quality health care and lack of insurance have a play, leading to the mortality.
- With better insurance and improving hospital standards, it is possible for LIC to head towards similar outcomes.
- The HIC in the study were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and United Arab Emirates.
- The middle-income countries (MIC) were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Iran, Malaysia, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Turkey and South Africa. The LIC were Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
- Five Indian research institutes also participated in the study.
- In another paper, also published in the Lancet, on ‘Modifiable risk factors, cardiovascular disease, and mortality’, researchers established indoor air pollution as an emerging source of risk for cardiovascular disease in LIC and MIC.
IPCC report 2019
- Humanity’s agricultural tunnel vision has undermined climate equilibrium on a planetary scale, according to the latest reporton the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on August 8, 2019.
- While forestry has long been a focus of carbon sink creation, the report shines a spotlight on three areas where serious action has long been deferred — food consumption, ‘modern’ agricultural practices, and desertification.
Food and carbon footprint
- The global food system currently accounts for the majority of emissions from the ‘agriculture, forestry and land use’ (AFOLU) sector.
- If we include energy emissions from storage, transport, packaging, processing, retail, preparation, and waste, food accounts for 22-35 per cent of all anthropogenic emissions.
- Without intervention emissions from the food system are projected to increase by about 30–40 per cent by 2050, due to increasing demand based on population and income growth and dietary change.
- The new report takes square aim at unsustainable patterns of food consumption. Despite an approximately 33 per cent increase in per capitacalories consumed since 1961, 820 million people are still malnourished.
- At the other extreme, two billion adults are overweight or obese. Most appalling, 25 to 30 per cent of total food produced is wasted.
- Eliminating that waste is a humanitarian imperative with a climate dimension.
- The Food and Agricultural Organization estimatesthat food waste accounted for 4.4 gigatonnes and 8 per cent of CO2 emissions in 2011, giving lie to the notion that carbon consumption is a driver of human welfare.
- In addition, the report identifies that dietary changes can mitigate between 1.8 and 3.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2050.
- Debates over diet often polarise into useless binaries between veganism and meat consumption or, worse, the dietary recommendations of different religions.
- But faith and culture can be a positive force for ethical consumption, which is why leaders across faiths (and political systems) would do well to heed the IPCC’s call for diversification, rather than demonisation of particular diets.
- That means increasing accessto coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and reducing the carbon footprint of the meat industry.
- Along with the waste problem, these recommendations indicate the dire need for investment in redirecting food to those who most need it.
- That supply chain management challenge presents billions of dollarsin economic opportunity, but it must be accompanied by shifts in culture focused on common goods over private profits.
- The IPCC is similarly clear about the excesses of ‘modern’ agriculture.
- This is most directly reflected in emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with nearly 300 times the warming potentialof carbon dioxide.
- Nitrous oxide emissions from land have more than doubled since 1961, with cropland soils emitting around three megatonnes each year.
- The IPCC attributes this to “inefficient nitrogen application (over-application or poorly synchronised with crop demand timings) to soils”.
- Simply, inorganic nitrogen fertilisers are being dumped into the soil in bulk, instead of investing in technology or labour which can apply them as needed.
- Our fertiliser fixation is failing to produce commensurate gains in crop yield, is polluting our groundwater, and is exacerbating economic inequality.
- If more incentive was needed to act, the IPCC now presents an estimate of the climate change we could mitigate from crop and livestock activities — 1.6 to 4.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year until 2050.
- The solution lies in revolutionising farm-level management, a challenge in developing countries with small land-holdings and limited capital to invest.
- So far, the government has attempted to hand-hold farmers with a suite of top-down services — crop calendars, weather and market advisories, technological demonstrations.
- This approach has created a centralised agricultural administration with a wealth of accumulated knowledge and expertise, but which (1) reacts to rather than anticipating rapidly evolving climate challenges and (2) is unable to tailor its services to the farm-level.
- Information technology solutions for farm-level management are emerging, including in India.
- Their services are not targeted at subsistence farming, but this could change if (as the IPCC recommends) the government invested in bridging the affordability gap.
- The benefits to individual farmers are obvious; in addition, the creation of a real-time farm-level data eco-system would also be a public good, enabling the government, businesses and consumers to anticipate and respond better to climate-based disruptions.
- Such a technology-driven approach has the potential to worsen the situation, if adopted only by high-income farmers to extract the last ounce of value from land with no concern for its long-term health.
- Yet, as part of a ‘sustainable land management approach’ (as the IPCC recommends), it is one of the few solutions with significant upside for mitigation, adaptation, as well as income generation.
- Lastly, the IPCC’s report should motivate action on desertification and soil degradation.
- The population exposed to the risks associated with desertification has sky-rocketed since the 1960s.
- By 2050, between 170 to 270 million people living in drylands will be vulnerable to water stress, drought intensity and habitat degradation.
- The United Nations has dedicated this decadeto combating desertification, yet the climate benefits of this push are poorly understood.
- The IPCC is highly confident that measures to combat desertification can promote soil carbon sequestration.
- It also highlights several co-benefits of such measures; for example “reducing dust and sand storms and sand dune movement can lessen the negative effects of wind erosion and improve air quality and health”.
- It is less clear what amount of carbon can be sequestered in drylands.
- The report emphasises, though that “preventing desertification is preferable to attempting to restore degraded land”.
- That involves preserving the topsoil and soil quality in currently cropped land.
- The local benefits of practices such as growing green manure crops and cover crops, crop residue retention, reduced/zero tillage have long been known.
- The report incentivises such practices by identifying their potential to mitigate climate change — the use of cover crops, for example, could sequester as much as 0.44 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide each year, even if applied over only a quarter of the world’s cropland.
- The signature issue linking land and climate tends to be forests — this is unlikely to change.
- However, using the land to manage climate change will require a broader re-alignment in the agriculture and food value chains.
- Within the limited aims of the past century, these are highly successful systems with entrenched practices.
- Changing them will require an investment exceeding the ambition of the Green Revolution.
- This report makes clear the climate benefits of that investment. It also makes clear the shared, global nature of these challenges.
- The country that leads on empowering its most vulnerable citizens with sustainable micro-management of food and agriculture value chains will find a global market for its solutions.
- The Green Revolution has always been taught in Indian schools as the triumph of a budding scientific establishment over biology.
- Even today, the language of that revolution — better inputs to increase yields — doubles up as the language of progress.
- For a growing nation home to nearly 200 million under-nourishedpeople, that seems only natural.
- This IPCC report, though, is evidence that driving our soil resources to the brink will not solve hunger or malnutrition.
- We can now move past the notion of ‘development’ as a shift away from agriculture and into services.
- In a time of climate change, technological and information services for agriculture will be the central pillar of resilient economies.
Eastern Economic Forum
- Speaking at the Plenary Session of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would extend a $1 billion line of credit towards the development of the Russian Far East.
- The PM recalled that India was the first country in the world to open a consulate in Vladivostok, and underlined the age and depth of the country’s relations with the Far East.
What is the EEF?
- According to its website, the EEF was established by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in 2015, with the aim of supporting the economic development of Russia’s Far East, and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
- This EEF Summit at the Far Eastern Federal University is the fifth in its history.
- Among the participants in the Summit are India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and South Korea.
- According to the EEF website, the 2018 Summit was attended by more than 6,000 participants from over 60 countries, and over 220 agreements worth over RUB 3.1 trillion were signed. (Each Russian ruble is almost exactly worth 1 Indian rupee.)
- The Summits have roundtable conferences, panel sessions, business breakfasts, besides business dialogues and bilateral talks and agreements.
Achievements of the EEF:
- In the last five years, as many as 17 different countries have invested in the Far East.
- These include regional and global heavyweights like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.
- As a result, 20 advanced special economic zones and five free ports have been put in place.
- A total of 1,780 new investment projects, worth over 3.8 trillion rubles, and 230 new enterprises have become functional, the EEF website says.
What is India’s interest in the EEF:
- India is a key customer of the Russian arms industry.
- In March, India entered into a joint venture with Russia to manufacture the legendary Kalashnikov assault rifles in India.
- In 2018, Russia sold the S-400 advanced air defence system to India.
- India is interested in expanding the level of trade between the two countries.
- An area of special interest for India is the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves along the coast of Russia’s Far East.
Current Affairs UPSC CSE