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National well-being and the counts that matter

  • 29 August, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

National well-being and the counts that matter


  • The editorial talks about the importance of adopting new ways for India to know its cumulative human capital and potential.


  • Since India’s crime data recording system is not built to capture subtleties, what proportion of pregnancies in India start off without the consent of the woman is not known.
  • The intergenerational impact of a regretful and anxiety-loaded pregnancy is inadequately quantified by current clinical or epidemiological tools.

Steps to be taken:

  • Underage marriage of girls must become history.
  • Ensuring secondary school completion of every child, especially girls in rural areas, has far-reaching impact, and needs to be pursued single-mindedly.
  • Provisioning separate, functional toilets and sanitary pads for girls, and teaching boys biology and gender differences (of their own and female) are key enablers to ensuring gender parity in school completion rates.
  • Teaching school-leaving girls and boys the notion of consent, and also the basics of contraception will ensure that the start of every pregnancy will be a desired and happy one.
  • A desired pregnancy is to be supported by a fully functional health-care system, able to anticipate complications before time and facilitating a safe delivery.

Important Parameters:

  • What is valuable is measured frequently, at different life stages, and at disaggregated levels: birth weights; the heights and weights of our children when they enter school; school completion rates; perhaps the age, height and weight of a first-time pregnant woman; and most definitely, the number of women in the formal workforce who are on a par with men in terms of earning.
  • Birth weight is much more than a number — it is a complex outcome, telling of how well the woman and her family eat, her status among them, and also of any particular condition that the individual mother or new-born child has.
  • Tracking average birth weights by district and sub-district on a regular basis is a fair proxy for food security, the status of women and the delivery of primary health care.
  • For a nation with plans to assign digital health IDs to everyone, what is additionally required is the making of this moving average data live and visible to the people and their government.
  • Parameters that take into account such cumulative human capital and potential are of greater importance.

Way forward:

  • Height-weight proportions: If India is to be truly taking advantage of its large birth rate in the form of a demographic dividend, then the correlate of birthweight and five-year height-weight needs to be reviewed at the highest political levels regularly.
    • It reflects the physical and cognitive nurture of human capital that India can bank on for its future.
  • Improved learning capability: Schooling is a socio-economic and gender parity springboard if school completion rates show no gender, rural-urban or parental income divides.
    • With improved education, India may bring down its maternal mortality ratios.
    • Also neonatal and under-five mortality rates can be improved through delayed marriages and exercising of reproductive choices by its empowered young women.
    • Improved learning should translate into better completion rates at post-secondary and baccalaureate levels but need not necessarily correspond to universal, meaningful employment.
    • It is for the government and the corporate world to make opportunities and workplaces happen, irrespective of their gender.
  • Timely, disaggregated, multidimensional data helps immensely in ensuring collective well being – physical, mental and social.


Source: TH

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