- What I want from Budget 2020: Reduction in import duty on gold; single-window process to simplify approvals for new businesses
- What I want from Budget 2020: Early and regular health screening for women who remain key stakeholders in India's $5 trillion goal
- What I want from Budget 2020: A robust, primary healthcare system; at-home care integrated with Ayushman Bharat
- What I want from Budget 2020: A Swachh Bharat-type campaign for mental health awareness, more psychiatrists
Like every financial year, the Union Budget 2020 will be a time when the Government deep dives into priority areas for the country from policy and fund allocation standpoint. Given the intent and speed that the Government has shown for socio-economic reforms, we can certainly expect some crucial announcements in this Union Budget.
Some areas of continuous focus have been women education, employment and entrepreneurship. In the past couple of budgets, the Government earmarked a significant outlay towards these heads. As a result, we have started seeing a positive change in terms of women’s participation across various aspects of life. Here’s how the upcoming Union Budget could make further progress towards women empowerment and inclusion:
Go beyond literacy
It is important to raise the expenditure on women education, at all levels including primary schools, colleges, and institutes of higher learning. The National Statistical Organization (NSO) recently released a report based on an all-India survey conducted in 2017-18. The survey shows that only 5.7 per cent women over the age of 15 years have successfully completed a graduate degree. Therefore, it is prudent to substantially increase the outlay towards schemes such as 'Beti Bacho, Beti Padhao', Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls – 'Sabla' and 'Digital Laado' to build awareness about the importance of educating the girl child. 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' in the 2019 Budget received Rs 280 crore compared to the Rs 200 crore in the previous Budget. My hope is that this remains a focus and more funds are allocated to empower our girls with the right education.
Make technical education more affordable
The NSO report also suggests that the average annual expense on a graduate course was Rs 10,501 in a government institution, and almost double in an unaided private institution (Rs 19,972). The expenditure for a graduate degree in technical courses in a government college was Rs 36,180 as compared to Rs 72,712 in private unaided institutions. Unless this divide comes down, those at the bottom of the pyramid, may not be willing to invest in the higher education of their girl child. Allocating more resources towards providing scholarships for deserving girls who aspire pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) streams can really enable them to continue with their education and eventually become a part of the technology workforce.
Encourage women in technology
As per a McKinsey report titled ‘Skill shift automation and the future of the workforce’, the demand for tech skills in India is expected to rise by 55 per cent CAGR between 2018-2030. This demand will be spread across functional areas including programming, data science, machine learning and robotics. Businesses are now looking for subject matter experts who can work across diverse portfolios. This demand cannot be met unless we ensure an equitable participation from women in technology workforce. Public schemes to prepare women technology graduates for future roles through skill building and vocational training will prove to be the right dose of change that the country needs.
Support women entrepreneurship
The Finance Minister in the previous budget speech highlighted that the government has supported and encouraged women entrepreneurship through various schemes such as 'MUDRA', 'Stand Up India' and the 'Self-Help Groups' (SHG) movement. Understanding the exclusion that women face in semi-urban and rural parts of the country, making credit easily available to them is key for their empowerment. In order to alleviate their problems, the Ministry of Small-Scale Industries (SSI) in the Government of India has launched a scheme, ‘Trade Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development’ (TREAD) for economic empowerment of women through the development of their entrepreneurial skills in non-farm activities. To further encourage women enterprise, the Budget had a proposal to expand the Women SHG interest subvention program to all districts in India. It will be encouraging to see more investment into these areas. Moreover, simplification of processes under various government schemes will be instrumental for women entrepreneurs in India.
(The author is Senior Vice President, India Technology Hub at Mastercard)
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The Countdown Begins
It's that time of the year when all eyes are on the Finance Minister. Dalal Street, India Inc, tax-paying individuals, consumers, traders - almost everyone is looking at Nirmala Sitharaman with hope. This Budget, that comes in the wake of a slowdown, and muted consumer spending, is the first one that's being presented by the Narendra Modi government after storming back to power in the Lok Sabha elections last year.
As the countdown begins, here's a look at what India Inc has on their wishlist from Ms Sitharaman this time.