Why Isn’t Our Govt Applying Social Sciences When Creating Policies For Society?

The government, and we as citizens, always try to resolve problems our country is grappling with. The government regularly enacts strict laws, punishments, regulations, etc. to build a peaceful society. Citizens also cooperate with the government, either due to fear of law or the feeling of mutual benefits. But, what matters here is, how we are looking at our problems? In what direction do we need to move to eradicate the hindrances in achieving well being?

The government regularly enacts strict laws, punishments, regulations, etc. to build a peaceful society.

How Does Govt Spend Money And How Well Is It Going To Solve The Root Causes Of Problems?

Let’s look at this through some examples:

  • India is tackling rape crimes by strict criminal legislation which may not be enough. It is the patriarchal mindset of the accused, which has the tendency to dominate women, that is mainly responsible for such crimes. We have to pursue psychological research on criminal’s thinking to know the root cause which makes them commit such heinous crimes.
  • The government seeks to reduce the sufferings of an ageing population by providing financial security to them, through schemes like Atal pension yojana. About 71% of elderly population live in rural areas but the migration of younger people to cities is leading to loneliness in the former. But, have we thought about the migration of younger populations from rural to urban areas, and how it may be harming elders? In my opinion, in the long term, policy-making should focus on creating equal opportunities across the country to reduce migration, ensuring well being of elders.
  • We consider corrupt officials and insensitivity of citizens towards traffic rules as primary factors for increasing road accidents, which may be true. As per official data, about 60% of road accidents victims are aged between 18-35. I have often seen youth feeling proud over their ability to drive fast. But, has the government ever focused on social dynamics of trends, like rash driving by youth, etc. to combat such accidents?
  • Has the government tried to see the economy through social dynamics? During marriage seasons, it is obvious that the gold market will boom in India. Generally, people buy gold during this time, which leads to high imports. The gold bond was introduced by the government, to provide people with an alternative to gold purchase. Given this rationale, the government can incentivise people for buying gold bonds, by increasing the rate of return of gold bonds. It will attract and make people invest in gold bonds instead of purchasing physical gold. It may reduce gold imports thus reducing current account deficit.
  • Are policymakers trying to gauge the psychological effects of populist schemes like universal basic income (UBI), farm loan waivers on the beneficiaries by social surveys or investigating before launching them? For example, social surveys may indicate indolence among people after UBI.
  • We should have known that toilet building. by itself, will not work in combating open defecation. It is the orthodox and religious mindset of people which encourages them to do it. However, the government has got a pulse of society and must work towards changing people’s mindsets.

Every problem may have a hidden social dimension which we are not even considering. The government has always sought to solve problems by coercive punishments, subsidies, populism, etc. Governments have only been focusing on spending targeted amounts, rather than doing cause-effect analysis.

We have to understand our society, identify social dynamics, and trends in policy-making. We have to know our people before solving their issues. The latest economic survey also talked about behavioural economics, (nudge theory), where we have to take “thinking of people or social environment” into consideration while devising any economic policy.

Where Are We Lacking?

The main hindrance in doing what we have concluded above is the government’s unwillingness or lack of capability. The government doesn’t have adequate expertise in conducting a social analysis of policies. In my opinion, the government doesn’t have a structured workforce of social experts or social scientists, who have knowledge of humanities, like sociology, psychology etc. and who are able to analyse policies from a social perspective.

The government only has bureaucrats or other hardcore economists, mainly who devise public policy. Who will advise the government on social aspects of policy-making? For this, we also require experts, like sociologists, psychologists, and historians, to see the problems from different angles and include that in the final draft.

I agree that the government may have been taking the help of many such experts on multiple occasions. Still, we are largely ignoring the importance of these humanities fields in public policy.

Humanities or social science subjects have always been viewed in a poor light in Indian academics. Society doesn’t prefer children to study social sciences in place of engineering or medicine. We have thousands of engineers, doctors, scientists but very few “social scientists” who understand society well and can predict social trends or behaviour, from scientific angles. We live in human society and can’t ignore the study of humanities, which teaches us about the people around us.

How Can We Do It? 

To incorporate social sciences into policymaking, the government has to promote research on humanities subjects and hire experts as “social scientists”. Although the government has launched the IMPRESS scheme for this, more needs to be done.

There is also a need for professionalising theoretical social science curriculum, by starting short term diploma courses and training the students in practical public policy. Similarly, the government needs to strengthen its social data collection capabilities, by designing better social investigation methods, which can be done by creating a similar workforce of social scientists.

In the same way, not only governments, but corporates should also induct such human resources, to ensure better social environments at workplaces, and happiness and motivation of employees.

Social studies are an integral part of human society. No matter how extensively we use machines or build robots to do human work, human behaviour and humanity will always rule the world. So, we must turn our eyes and see how well we know ourselves, our neighbourhood or society, before charting out a long term plan for it.    

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