Gender Sensitivity of Well-being Indicators

Date: Mar, 1998
ODID Working Paper No. 10
Author(s): Ruhi Saith, Barbara Harriss-White (QEH)

The gender sensitivity of indicators of health, nutrition, education, and composite indices, relevant to developing countries is assessed within the analytical framework of 'functionings'. A disaggregated under-10 female-male ratio (0-4 years and 5-9 years) appears to be a suitable indicator, especially for South Asia. Difficulties with data collection and interpretation reduce the reliability of indicators of nutrition and morbidity.

Enrolment rates show promise for assessing gender gaps in education, especially for sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Micro-level research explicitly comparing indicators of education (especially enrolment, and drop-out ratios) is however required to reach firm conclusions.

Composite indices like the Physical Quality of Life Index and Gender-related Development Index are evaluated as potentially useful, given some alterations to increase their relevance to developing countries. The evidence reviewed also suggests that gender inequality is not necessarily universally higher amongst low income groups, except in case of education.

Policy implications are first, the collection of gender-sensitive indicator data in national censuses (especially for indicators mentioned above as well as 'time allocation') and second, the gender disaggregation of data for differing levels of income. However feeding research on social processes resulting in gender differentials (which is generally conducted at the micro-level) into policy, is essential to increase the effective use of indicators by policy makers.

ODID Author(s)