Gender and public spending on education
Sustainable development of nations begins with the development of its human resources. It is a generally accepted belief that access to education and health services are among the basic human rights of each individual, which contains several positive externalities.
Moreover, a large proportion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be achieved without female access to educational opportunities and healthcare facilities. Unfortunately, there exist inequalities in access to education and health services between males and females in many countries across the world, including Pakistan.
According to the traditional structure of society, a combination of cultural, social and economic factors is responsible for keeping young girls and women at a grave disadvantage regarding access to educational and health services. This disadvantage can be addressed through Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB).
Gender-disaggregated Benefit Incidence Analysis (GBIA) is one of the basic GRB tools commonly used to analyse and monitor the extent to which men and women, girls and boys benefit from expenditure on publicly provided services like education and health. A recent report published by the SPDC, analyses province-wise benefit incidence of public expenditures on education and health through gender lens. Some key findings related to benefit incidence of public spending on education are presented here.
The study highlights wide gender disparity in education sector across provinces, regions, and income groups. As indicated through the gross enrolment rates, gender disparity is more pronounced in poor income groups as compared to rich income groups, especially in Balochistan, as compared to other provinces. The poor targeting of public spending on education is one of the causes of this gender gap as public schooling still covers at least two-thirds of primary, secondary and tertiary education in all provinces.
Concentration indices – a measure used to analyse equality in public spending – indicate that public spending on primary education was pro-poor whereas on tertiary education, it was pro-rich in all the provinces in 1998-99. Public spending on secondary education showed a mixed pattern, indicating that it was pro poor in Sindh, pro rich in Balochistan, and equitable in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. However, in 2004-05, except for public spending on primary education in Punjab, it was not pro poor at any level in any province.
An alarming finding abstracted from benefit incidence is that the share of education subsidies received by poor income groups has declined in 2004-05 as compared to 1998-99 in all provinces. This indicates that the reforms initiated during this period were not pro-poor in character.
Province-wise benefit incidence estimates indicate that public spending on education was biased against females in Punjab at all levels in both years, except at tertiary level in 2004-05.
In Sindh too, females were at a relative disadvantage as compared to males in both years. Public spending was also biased against females in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, particularly for lower income groups. An interesting finding is that the gender disparity generally worsened at primary and secondary levels, but marginally improved at the tertiary level. For instance, at public universities, share of female students is growing while share of male students is declining. This trend is largely an outcome of both government expenditure priorities and mushrooming of private universities. In former case, public spending on tertiary education, grew faster than primary and secondary education which indicates that during 2004-05 governments focus relatively shifted towards tertiary education compared to 1998-99. In later case, private universities offered market-based courses, which relatively attract male students as compared to female students.
This gender bias is also consistent in the pattern of per capita education subsidy. For instance in Punjab, females had received an in kind subsidy of Rs 2,180, at primary level, while their male counterparts had received Rs 2,318 during 2004-05. In Sindh, the per capita subsidy received by females at primary level was Rs 1,433, while that received by males was Rs 1,444. In Khyber-Pathtunkhwa, the relative disadvantage to females in terms of per capita subsidy was lowest at the primary level and increased gradually with the level of education and was greatest at the tertiary level in 2004-05. In Balochistan, at the primary level per capita subsidy on education to females was Rs 182 while that to males was Rs 290 in 2004-05.
Gender disaggregated benefit incidence results can be used to provide a comparative picture of regional gender disparity. For this, female to male ratio of benefit incidence of public spending was used to identify province-wise gender gaps at rural and urban areas. This ratio indicates that gender disparity is higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas. It further indicates that as compared to 1998-99 in 2004-05 improvement in benefit incidence occurred in the urban areas of Sindh and Punjab while deterioration occurred in the urban areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
In rural areas, this ratio is well below in all provinces and at all levels of education in both 1998-99 and 2004-05. It shows that females have greater relative disadvantage in rural areas of all provinces, with greatest disadvantage in rural Balochistan and Sindh.
These insights from the gender disaggregated benefit incidence analysis call for greater focus on gender and region sensitive policies to reduce gender gaps in education. It is important to target public spending on education towards the regions with higher levels of poverty and gender disparity. A region-specific education policy may prove to be more useful for achieving gender equality. Moreover, public spending on female education in rural areas will help reducing gender disparities as well as expediting women’s empowerment.
There is noticeable advancement in gender equality in rural areas of Punjab as compared to rural areas of other provinces. Successful initiatives and best practices need to be replicated in other provinces to ensure overall improvement.
Province-wise policies related to gender equality in education are likely to be more effective than national policies. For instance, in Balochistan, a shift in spending from tertiary towards primary and secondary education would lead to an improvement in the share of the total budget going to females. Moreover, Additional efforts and resources are required to breakthrough cultural barriers and demand-side restrictions on girls’ education.
Since, women and girls are socially and culturally discriminated against from birth, a gender neutral budget that does not adequately address these demand-side issues would allow gender disparities to perpetuate. Gender sensitive policy formulation and budgeting at lower tiers of government will help reduce gender disparity in education.
Source: Business Recorder