Guide on Gender Analysis of Census Data Full Draft of 6 December 2012 Contents



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Source: Ebenstein and Leung, 2010: Figure 2
191. Further analysis may also be carried out with respect to the determinants of imbalances in the sex ratio at birth. One line of analysis that was suggested earlier is the disaggregation of births by birth order and by the composition of older siblings. It may be possible to investigate other determinants. For example, it was mentioned earlier that parents in some countries need a male heir, to ensure their sustenance in old age. This suggests that parents who have access to institutional pension systems may have less unbalanced sex ratios among their offspring than those who depend entirely on their (male) children (for an example of this kind of analysis see the above study by Ebenstein and Leung, 2010). In some censuses, it may be possible to differentiate between these situations, either through specific census questions or indirectly, by looking at the status in employment of the head of household and his/her spouse.
192. Some of the first regression analyses (e.g. on India: Kishor, 1993 and Murthi et al., 1995) show that sex ratio imbalances are a function of female economic valuation (using female labour force participation as a proxy), development level (income/wealth or human development), male and female educational attainment, cultural factors (using religion and ethnicity as measures) and urbanization. In accordance with the argument made in Section 4, one should add to this the effect of overall fertility levels and their distribution in the population. Recent research suggests that greater attention should be paid to comparing sex ratios at different age groups, to sex-biased migration as an explanation for rural-urban differences in sex ratios, and to the existing sex composition of the family into which girls are conceived (Das Gupta, 2005).
7. Interpretation, Policy and Advocacy
193. The examination of sex ratios at birth and for different age groups should be contextualized by more qualitative analyses. In order to develop an adequate policy or advocacy response to sex ratio at birth imbalances, gender analysis needs to unearth what gender inequality or human rights violation is underlying the disparity.

a) Is it differential under-reporting ?

b) Is it sex-selective abortion, based on son preference ? And if so, what is the legal context of sex-selective abortion in the country ?

c) Is it neglect of newborn girls ?


Although differential under-reporting would the least serious of the three alternatives, it is not without negative consequences. Under the one child policy, parents in China may be more likely not to report the birth of a girl than a boy, so as to maintain the option to have another child, but by doing so they make it impossible for the girl to attend school or have access to a series of other public benefits that require an official identity. Although under-registration is not the same as under-count and girls that were never registered may still be counted in the census, it is likely that parents will keep never registerd girls away from census enumerators as well, especially if the enumeration involves the presentation of identity documents for all household members.
194. Any effective strategy for dealing with son preference should be based not only on the subjective preferences of parents - and how to change them -, but also consider the fact that parents take rational decisions based on the objective disadvantages that their daughters - and by extension they themselves - face in a society where women are less valued and where the ability of women to care for their parents is limited both by economic realities and social customs. Ebenstein and Leung (2010: 66) express this viewpoint when they consider how male or female offspring affect the access of parents to care in old age: “The Chinese government has both re-affirmed the one-child limit and declared that reducing the sex ratio at birth by 2016 is a national priority (....). Such goals may be in conflict with each other if economic conditions making sons valuable to parents are not addressed. We find that parents who fail to produce a son are more likely to participate in old-age pension programmes and that the number of children in a family is negatively related to pension programme participation. We also find evidence that the rural old-age pension programme mitigated the increase in the sex ratio in the areas where the programme was available.”
195. In some countries, the sex ratio seems to start decreasing after the age of 20, only to equalize around the age of 60. This reflects the high level of maternal mortality. According to UNICEF (2011 b), based on the analysis of DHS, MICS and Reproductive Health Surveys for 80 countries, under-5 mortality for girls is typically 4 per cent lower than for boys, except in East Asia and the Pacific and in South Asia, where it is 5 per cent and 3 per cent higher, respectively. In Latin America and the Caribbean and in the Central and Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) countries, on the other hand, the mortality of girls is much lower (14 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively) than that of boys under age 5. It is important to distinguish sex differentials in mortality, especially infant and child mortality, from sex ratio imbalances at birth because their policy implications are very different. Oster (2009) argues that differential mortality, rather than sex ratio imbalances at birth, are responsible for the high child sex ratios in India. In practice, however, it is difficult to disentangle these factors.
Country Example 4: the 2011 Census of India

In India the 2001 census revealed a substantial increase (or decrease, as it would be reported according to the Indian convention for computing sex ratios) in the child sex ratio of the 0-6 age group, compared to the previous census. This finding was publicized by the media and a major campaign (‘Save the Girl Child’) to control and monitor female foeticide was launched, along with a number of remedial measures at national and state levels (UNECE, 2010).

In the 2011 census of India, UNFPA concentrated its support to the government in the area of gender (see UNFPA India, 2011). Based on the results of the 2001 census, three indicators were identified to characterize districts with particular gender problems. These were:

a) The overall sex ratio (with a ratio of less than 900 women per 1000 men indicative of a problem);

b) Low female literacy (30 per cent or lower); and

c) Low female labour force participation (20 per cent or lower).

Likewise, analysis with a different cut-off was done for cities/towns. Based on the results of the 2001 census, this led to the identification of 260 gender-critical districts (including cities/towns) out of the 593 districts across the country, for focused attention. These districts were singled out for additional training of the enumerators, through a special gender module.

More in general, interviewer training focused on seven critical gender elements of census enumeration:

1. Full coverage of population, to ensure the inclusion of females (elderly, infants, disabled, etc.);

2. Proper netting of female headed households;

3. Appropriate netting of female work in all economic activities, including informal and unpaid;

4. Adequate capture of the date of birth, particularly among elders, girls, and illiterates;

5. Adequate capture of mother tongues, especially of married females and non-family members;

6. Adequate capture of fertility, particularly children born and died in the year before the census;

7. Instructions to probe the reasons for migration, especially in the case of females.

In order to prevent the misuse of technology, India has institutes the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, which was adopted in 1994 and amended in 2003, but few convictions have been made so far, due to the difficulty of demonstrating conclusively that the offense was conducted with the consent of the parents and the service provider (UNFPA India, 2009).


196. Some authors consider the term “sex ratio” (to say nothing of “masculinity ratio”, as it is called in some Romance languages) too slanted towards biology and thus unclear about the role of cultural differences. While some Australian feminists propose replacing the term “sex ratio” by “gender ratio” (Lucas, 1985: 7), this usage is not encouraged, for the reasons discussed in previous chapters regarding the difference between “sex” and “gender.”
197. Sex selection technology providers generally argue that sex selection is an expression of reproductive rights pursued by women, as well as a sign of female empowerment that allowed couples to make well-informed family planning decisions, prevented occurrences of unintended pregnancy and abortion and minimized intimate partner violence and/or child neglect. In contrast, primary care physicians question whether women could truly express free choice under pressure from family and community. They voice concerns that sex selection led to invasive medical intervention in the absence of therapeutic indications, contributed to gender stereotypes that could result in child neglect of lesser-desired sex, and was not a solution to domestic violence (Puri and Nachtigall, 2010).
198. Advocacy efforts to reduce sex ratio imbalances should lobby with legislators, the executive, traditional and religious leaders for enhanced monitoring of technologies that allow for sex-selective abortions and their application and spread in the private health sector. More importantly, however, the long-term solution for the problem lies in counterbalancing the effect of women’s undervaluation in patriarchal systems. This requires various empowerment measures, tackling the societal level (questioning and reforming systems of dowry transfers, patrilocal residence and extended patrilineal families, old-age support, ritual duties, inheritance though sons, etc.) and, where feasible and affordable, the individual level (support girls and/or all-girls-families through direct subsidies at the time of birth, through scholarship programmes, and through gender-based quotas or financial incentives aimed at improving their economic situation and at offsetting the impact of the economic undervaluation of girls in society).
199. Most important from the viewpoint of this manual, the need for knowledge needs to be addressed and knowledge needs to be shared. In Viet Nam, a country that has fairly recently become aware of increasingly skewed sex ratio at birth as a consequence of son-preference and induced abortions, the following advocacy recommendations were made in this regard (UNFPA Viet Nam, forthcoming: 7ff):
“To enhance the basis for policy development and dialogue on the forces behind the increasingly skewed SRB in Viet Nam, there is a need for data of both a quantitative and a qualitative nature, and for dissemination and public discussion of this evidence.”
The regular analysis of population and birth registration data on sex ratios should be continued in order to establish and extend the evidence on sex ratios and monitor relevant trends over time. Further, analyses should be carried using other data sources, such as the annual Population Change Survey, the Inter-census survey and the 2019 Population and Housing Census.




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