Allocation for family welfare awareness fell 8% last year: PFI on why Budget 2024-25 should focus on adolescents

Investment to bridge digital gender gap & improve health literacy critical to unlock India’s true economic potential, says Population Foundation of India

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 10 January 2024
Photo for representation: iStock

India, the most populous country in the world, must focus on the education and welfare of its youth in Union Budget 2024-25 to achieve economic growth, the Population Foundation of India (PFI) highlighted in a press note. For this, the central government must make targeted investments in education, skilling, healthcare and generating employment, the organisation added. 

India has the demographic advantage of having the highest number of young people aged 10 to 24 years in the world, the non-profit pointed out. But the country needs to allocate more funds for development of this age group to reap the dividends, it added. 

The organisation drew attention to women’s empowerment as a vehicle to achieve this goal, as it has been illustrated in various scientific studies that investing in women can boost a nation’s economy. PFI noted: 

The focus on women’s empowerment, a key aspect of last year’s budget, must translate into tangible and increased budgetary allocations. Over the last few years, the differential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, including the gender divide in access to technology, healthcare and workforce participation, highlighted the urgency for focused investment in women's empowerment.

“With declining fertility and changing age structures, more women entering the workforce can significantly drive economic growth. This requires ensuring their health, education, skill development, and empowerment,” the organisation noted in the media statement released January 9, 2023. 

A fiscal push towards a more scientific and modern family planning can prove to be beneficial as it will help women plan their work lives better, highlighted Poonam Muttreja, the executive-director of the foundation. “With more than 24 million currently married women aged 15-49 years having an unmet need for family planning, it is imperative to expand access to these services.” 

Bridging the digital gender gap is also of essence to empower women and girls, Muttreja underlined. “This involves designing digital solutions with the active participation of women.”

The expert lauded the introduction of two new contraceptives — subdermal implants (single flexible rod) and subcutaneous injectable contraceptive Antara — in the country last year. “The success of initiatives like Mission Parivar Vikas shows the path forward in reducing this unmet need.”

But the country is still lagging behind when it comes to availing health services that are available to them. The reason behind this can be the huge gap in health literacy among the residents. In India, at least nine out of ten individuals lack health literacy, noted a scoping review published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health in 2023. 

“There is a pressing need for increased budgetary allocations for promoting health literacy and generating demand for health services, including family planning,” Muttreja added. 

The press note also mentioned that the “budgetary outlay designated for public awareness and mass communication under the family welfare major head, had decreased by 8.6 per cent, dropping from Rs 40 crore (BE) in 2022-23 to Rs 36.56 crore (BE) in 2023-24”. 

The upcoming Budget plan should address this lacuna for the country to adequately reap demographic dividends, PFI stressed. 

For initiatives that did see higher budgetary outlays last year, such as the National Health Mission and family planning programmes, the increase did not keep pace with inflation, the organisation said. “For instance, the increase in the budget for NHM by 0.8 per cent in 2023-24 could be interpreted as a decline when adjusted for inflation.”

PFI called for the Union government to prioritise young people and women in Budget 2024-25 to unlock India’s true economic potential, while also benefitting the country socially and morally. 

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