India’s economy is returning to growth for the last three months with a substantial decrease in the rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths and the recovery will gather pace with improvement in consumer spending. Budget 2021-22 is expected to be an impetus for recovery for the vulnerable communities, especially women given the pandemic’s deep impact on their lives and livelihood. As accounted through a multitude of sources, women have suffered from high levels of job losses, the disproportionate workload of unpaid care work and in some cases, a greater incidence of domestic violence, during the pandemic. The Gender Budget 2021-22 i.e. presented as part of the Union Budget has provided opportunities to focus on addressing some of the issues faced by women, which have been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

India presented its 16th Gender Budget since 2005-06 to earmark schemes and/or spending for benefiting women for alleviating gender inequality. Overall, the gender budget has gone up in absolute numbers to INR 1,53,326.28 crores (2021-22 actuals)  i.e. ~4.3% of the total budget from 2020-21 budget estimates. The Gender Budget consists of two parts—Part A i.e., spending for 100% women-specific programmes and Part B i.e., spending on programmes where at least 30% is for women.

Some of the allocations under Part A of the gender budget have been on previously announced schemes such as Nirbhaya Fund, Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0, Samagra Shiksha etc. Though, the major concentration of the budget was also to make allocations for combating the impact of the pandemic which has further worsened the conditions for women. To this, the allocation for assisting women to work in all categories and also in the night-shifts with adequate protection is a major step in bridging the gap that has been created by COVID-19. Women working across sectors like IT, ITeS, manufacturing, retailing, will benefit from this allocation as the country opens up.

Beyond the gender budget, the textile/apparel industry, which employs ~1.5 million workers of which ~60% are women , was one of the worst hit industries during the pandemic given the lack of operations and demand, has received a stimulus with the announcement of seven Mega Textile Parks. This is expected to help women who have lost jobs during the pandemic and revive their incomes. Further, investments announced for the promotion of gig and platform workers will expectedly also benefit women since they are a major part of the informal workforce in India.

The gender budget and some of the allocations beyond it is expected to assist women to recover and grow through the generation of economic opportunities for them. Further, the gender budget in India continues to evolve in line with learnings and recommendations year-on-year, as a fiscal tool to bridge the gender divide.

This blog has been authored by Guriya. 

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