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Gender budgeting in Europe: What can we learn from best practice?

Authors:
Administration, vol. 65, no. 3 (2017), pp. 101–121
doi: 10.1515/admin-2017-0026
Gender budgeting in Europe: What
can we learn from best practice?
Sheila Quinn
Gender Equality & Human Rights Specialist, Ireland
Introduction
Gender budgeting in Europe has attracted considerable attention over
the last few decades. A burgeoning momentum during the early 2000s
saw a full range of stakeholders promote a broad swathe of activities
under the rubric of gender budgeting. At that time there was an
expectation that gender budgeting would ‘liberate’ and ‘elevate’
gender, and gender mainstreaming, to the level of macroeconomic
policy and thus expedite the realisation of oft-projected gender
equality goals (Holvoet, 2006). In return, advocates offered that it
would contribute to the goals of efficiency, economy and effectiveness
(Sharp, 2003).
This paper provides an overview of gender budgeting in Europe,
with a particular focus on institutional mechanisms and operational
methodologies. In some instances, national and regional governments
have legislated for gender budgeting (viz. Austria, Belgium,
Andalucía), many have initiated changes to the institutions of the
budget (viz. Albania, Belgium, Iceland), while others have
recommitted to the fundamental concept of marrying equality policy
with economic policy (viz. Sweden, Finland, Iceland). Alongside this,
civil society organisations have brought the focus squarely on revenue
policy, particularly taxation, and on welfare benefits.
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An expanded version of this paper (Quinn, 2016), based on
research commissioned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
was presented at an IMF conference on Fiscal Policy and Gender
Equality in Washington, DC, in November 2016, where Christine
Lagarde committed the organisation to taking forward gender
budgeting within its Fiscal Affairs Department, including within the
context of its Article IV country consultations. This commitment
comes at a time when a return to economic growth holds the promise
of a restoration of the equality agenda in many European countries.
This discussion of gender budgeting across Europe is mindful of the
influence of EU policy and directives. On aggregate, the EU has had
a positive influence on the development of gender equality policy, not
only on its member states but also on other European countries, where
candidacy for accession or other aid-related relationships require
countries to work towards compliance with EU norms. While some
countries have retreated from full compliance in the post-accession
period, the legislative harmonisation brought about by the
implementation of the Employment and Social Affairs Chapter of the
acquis communautaire has legitimised women’s claim to genuine
equality (Sloat, 2004).
Nevertheless, there has been concern about the weakening of the
EU’s social agenda, including its gender equality policy, for some time,
and certainly prior to the most recent financial and public debt crises
(Crouch, 2015). The most recent changes to the European
Employment Strategy – the principal gender equality instrument
because of its economic focus – left gender equality sidelined to the
preamble and put the focus squarely on men’s employment, seemingly
overlooking the gains made in raising women’s employment during the
Lisbon process (Villa & Smith, cited in Barry, 2014).
Case studies
Austria
In Austria gender budgeting was introduced as part of a broader
budgetary reform process. New legislation and a constitutional
amendment in 2007 paved the way for a comprehensive reform of the
budgetary process with the move to performance-oriented budgeting
by 2013. As part of the reform, gender equality became one of four
constitutionally mandated budgetary principles; the others are
transparency, efficiency, and a true and fair view of the financial
position of the federal government of Austria. These characteristics
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render Austria’s gender budgeting initiative one of the most
institutionally robust in Europe, and arguably provide a strong
legislative basis for a refinement of its methods so as to effect more
substantive gender equality outcomes in line with socioeconomic
priorities. The main methodological tool for gender budgeting in
Austria is the identification of a gender equality objective for each
budget chapter. A weakness of Austria’s approach is a built-in
disincentive to the identification of relevant and potentially
transformative gender equality objectives. A 2015 evaluation showed
that budget personnel, while expressing commitment to the goal of
gender equality, in the main lacked capacity for meaningful gender
analysis.
A spring 2015 evaluation of the reform process touched briefly on
the gender budgeting dimension. The evaluation was based on
interviews with budget officials. While the majority of respondents
were positive about the integration of gender equality, many
questioned its prominent equal standing as one of a maximum of four
outcome objectives. Respondents felt that, at this early stage in the
reform process, it was unrealistic to give the same weight to gender
equality as to other dimensions of reform. They also felt that gender
equality was not being well served in this respect. The evaluation drew
attention to the poorly specified gender equality targets that did not
reflect the complexity of the subject. As an example, indicating that
women should constitute 50 per cent of any given target group is a
poorly conceived gender equality objective. Thus, goals are not
sufficiently ambitious and a lack of data means that the gender
equality objectives are not being subject to evaluation, thus the control
of outcomes is inoperable (Hammerschmid & Grunwald, 2014).
Belgium
Belgium’s gender budgeting initiative is also underpinned by law.
Whereas in Austria the law is about reform of public finance, in the
case of Belgium the law was introduced to give effect to the country’s
commitment to gender mainstreaming. Notable in the Belgium case is
the specificity of the law, which mandates: (i) methodologies and
processes to integrate gender equality into all budgetary processes, (ii)
the collection and management of gender-relevant data, (iii) the
specification of gender equality objectives in line with the Beijing
Platform for Action (BPfA) and (iv) the application of gender
budgeting to government procurement. A strength of Belgium’s
initiative is the alignment of its gender equality objectives with the
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BPfA, a framework that comprehends all aspects of gender equality
relevant to government policy (Quinn, 2013). Also notable is a 2001
conference, co-hosted with the OECD, UNIFEM (UN Development
Fund for Women) and the Nordic Council of Ministers, when Belgium
held the presidency of the EU. The conference was instrumental in
putting gender budgeting on the agenda across Europe. Implementa -
tion of this multifaceted, institutionally robust gender budgeting pro -
gramme has been hampered somewhat by the prevalence of federal
government vacancy during the last decade.
In addition to the gender note, the law stipulates the application of
a ‘gender test’: an assessment of the potential differential impact on
women and men of all government policies, laws and measures
perceived to have significant relevance to gender equality. An
important element of the law is the mandate to collect and manage
sex-disaggregated data and to develop gender indicators. These are to
be used for the purpose of measuring progress on gender equality and
should be reported on within the annual budgetary documentation
and during the budget debate.
Sweden
Following elections in September 2014, the new government declared
itself a feminist government and, among other gender equality
commitments, outlined its intention to institute gender budgeting in
the programme for government presented to Parliament by the Prime
Minister. It is instructive to understand this commitment to gender
budgeting in the context of Sweden’s previous efforts to mainstream a
gender perspective in its budgetary processes and policies.
Statistics Sweden has had a gender equality unit since 1982, and
since 1984 has published Women and Men in Sweden: Facts and Figures
biennially. In 1994 the Ordinance on Official Statistics mandated that
all official statistics related to individuals be disaggregated by sex.
Following a review in 2006, the use of sex-disaggregated statistics in
the budget bill became more widespread, in keeping with a
government goal of improving policy outcomes (Government Offices
of Sweden, 2006).
In relation to gender mainstreaming in the budget, the Ministry of
Finance initiated the project An Equal Share in 2002. This was wound
up in 2004 and gender budgeting was subsumed into the new Plan For
Gender Mainstreaming, 2004–2009, signalling that gender budgeting
was to become part of the regular work of gender mainstreaming. A
central goal of the plan was to integrate a gender analysis into the ‘two
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central decision-making processes in the Government Offices – the
legislative process and the budget process’ (Government Offices of
Sweden, 2006, p. 7). This renewed focus led to the development of
range of methodologies, overseen by the JamStod Committee, for
which Sweden has become renowned and which has been influential
across Europe and beyond.
Since 2016, the annual budget circular has included instructions on
the application of gender budgeting throughout the budget process.
Among the requirements set out in the circular is that gender impact
analysis be carried out at the early stage of new budget proposals. In
addition, sex-disaggregated data are to be used and new gender
equality indicators devised to reflect current status. This new
government initiative is seen as strengthening gender mainstreaming
in the budgetary process through improved mechanisms for internal
management and control, an improved methodology (JamKas) and
better use of sex-disaggregated data. The initiative should also result
in a more advanced gender equality impact analysis.
Iceland
Iceland’s first experience with gender budgeting was a pilot project
undertaken within the framework of the Nordic Co-operation in 2006.
In 2009 the new coalition government adopted gender budgeting as a
key element in the preparation of the budget and of economic policy.
During this period (2010–11) each government department was
obliged to undertake a pilot project with the goal of establishing the
scope and parameters of a viable methodology. An attendant goal was
to gauge the adequacy of existing gender data. These early pilot
projects included analysis of the transferability of personal tax
discounts between couples by the Ministry of Finance, research on the
debt status of Icelandic households by the Ministry of Economic
Affairs, and analysis of the gender distribution of unemployment
benefits and hospital waiting lists by the Ministry of Welfare.
The government approved a three-year plan for gender budgeting
in 2011, calling on all ministries to choose one main policy area with
which to work, while continuing with pilot projects. The emphasis was
on measures designed to bring about economic recovery and the need
to apply gender budgeting tools to planned public expenditure cuts, as
well as to job-creation measures (Government of Iceland, 2011).
Article 16 of the Equal Status Act, 2008, mandates the use of sex-
disaggregated statistics in all official economic surveys and in
subsequent reports and policymaking.
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In late 2015 the Government of Iceland approved a new five-year
plan on gender budgeting, with the overall objective of making the
methodologies more integral to the decision-making process within
government. The new plan has three broad emphases:
i. measuring short-term outcomes and amending plans to ensure
that targets are reached;
ii. gender impact analysis of all new budget proposals;
iii. analysis of all new legislative proposals to include a cost-benefit
analysis from a gender perspective.
While the new plan does not make specific mention of tax policy,
this dimension will be covered by the gender analysis of new legislative
proposals.
To bolster the new gender budgeting plan, the new organic budget
law (OBL), which came into effect in January 2016, assigns responsi -
bility to the Minister of Finance, working in consultation with the
Minister for Equality. In addition, the OBL mandates that gender
budgeting is taken into account in the drafting of the Budget Bill and
that the Budget Bill shall detail the impact of the budget on the
attainment of gender equality targets. Instructions on gender
budgeting have been included in the budget circular since 2010.
Regional initiatives
Berlin
In Berlin gender budgeting has been in operation as tool of gender
mainstreaming since 2003, following a decision by the Berlin House of
Representatives in 2002 – a decision due in large measure to the
support of women parliamentarians, as well as strong advocacy from
civil society. The Department of Finance takes the lead on gender
budgeting, working closely with the Department for Labour,
Integration and Women.
In the beginning the objective was to render the budget transparent
in terms of a gender-differentiated use of public finds. Moving beyond
the use of sex-disaggregated data, the House of Representatives
sought to deepen the gender analysis within the budget. A third stage
of the model employed in Berlin moved towards being able to ‘steer’
or re-orient budgetary expenditure towards the achievement of
specific gender equality objectives.
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The most recent budget (2016/17) for the Senate of Berlin
demonstrates the enhanced level of gender-related information used
within the budgetary process. Each departmental chapter opens with a
section dealing with objectives and priorities, a breakdown of revenue
and expenditure, and other general considerations. Included are
instructions on the function of gender budgeting as a ‘Ministerial
control function’ that complements the ‘principles of sustainable fiscal
policy’ by helping to ensure public resources are targeted efficiently
(Senate Department for Labor, Integration and Women, 2016).
Each budget chapter begins with a sex-disaggregated breakdown of
public officials. In addition, the mean monthly salary is disaggregated
by sex with an indication of the gender gap in salary. This is accom -
panied by an explanation for the gender gap. The explanation points
to the predominance of men in the higher salary brackets and to
women having to take maternity leave and so interrupt their career
progression. Analysis of the data indicates whether the sex distribution
of beneficiaries matches the actual target group and, if not, what
measures are planned to ‘steer’ the outcome so as to achieve gender
equality.
There is some concern, however, that the new steering tool has not
yet gone far enough to move the Berlin approach qualitatively beyond
disaggregating beneficiaries by sex. This was the approach for ten
years and the challenge now is expanding a methodology that has
already become institutionalised and ‘locked in’ its own path
dependency. Dr Gabriele Kämper, Head of the Equality Division in
the Senate Department for Labour, Integration and Women, points to
the challenge of gender expertise residing within her department,
which is one part of the ministerial collaboration coordinating gender
budgeting. In reality the day-to-day operations fall to the Senate
Department of Finance, where the officials, while enthusiastic about
gender budgeting, lack the gender expertise needed.
On the other hand, a clear strength of the Berlin initiative is its
political underpinning and its endurance over a period of twelve years
(Quinn, 2015).
Andalucía
Gender budgeting in Andalucía has a strong legal basis, beginning
with a 2003 Fiscal and Administrative Measures Law, and reinforced
over the years by other primary legislation and regulations. The 2003
law established two gender budget provisions: the requirement that
the regional budget presented to parliament contain a gender impact
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report (GIR), and secondly the establishment of a Gender Impact
Commission (GIC) within the Ministry of Finance. The 2007 law on
gender equality mandates the publication of the GIR for the draft
finance bill – and, importantly, for the collection and management of
sex-disaggregated and gender-relevant data. The Finance Law of 2010
mandates that the GIR is attached to the annual budget law. In
addition, further government decrees have solidified the role of the
GIC. Finally, the Statute of Autonomy mandates the application of a
gender impact assessment for all new laws and provisions, including
the finance bill.
As with Berlin, gender budgeting is seen as the primary vehicle for
the implementation of gender mainstreaming in Andalucía. In
addition, the regional government, keen to succeed as an autonomous
region, and in particular to reverse the fortunes of one of the poorest
regions in Spain, has adopted gender budgeting as part of its strategy
for economic growth and competitiveness (O’Hagan, 2015). In effect,
gender budgeting is now perceived as a tool of modern governance.
The Andalucía gender budgeting exercise is notable for the
roundedness of organisation. The Ministry of Finance has taken the
lead since its inception, initiating an ongoing deepening of the
methodologies and processes, and ensuring the integration of the
practice within the regular budgetary institutions. The first GIR was
produced in 2005, but was for internal use only and therefore not
published. In 2007 the G+ Programme was introduced: the aim is to
prioritise those budget programmes that are most relevant to, and
capable of, advancing gender equality. Presented as a three-stage
methodology, the first stage of identifying and classifying budgetary
programmes according to the G+ scale is key. All budget programmes
are ranked, from those deemed not gender relevant at all to those seen
as having the most potential to effect gender equality.
The second stage of the G+ Programme involves preparing a
strategic guidance document for each budgetary programme (with the
exception of those ranked not gender relevant). Made operational in
2010, this acts as a ‘living’ document, a record of early analysis and of
progress in relation to indicators and goals.
In 2013 the provision for gender audits (evaluations) contained in
the 2003 Fiscal And Administrative Measures Law was enacted. Five
G+ Programmes were assessed in terms of effectiveness in attaining
gender equality goals, as well as the degree to which the associated
processes of planning and implementation were gender main -
streamed. A report of the results published in October 2015
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concluded, ‘gender mainstreaming in the budgeting process and
activities has increased during the period 2009–2012 in relation to the
work existing prior to this date’ (Gualda et al., 2015). An important
follow-up to the audit process will be the planned public consultation
process. Those charged with oversight of the gender budgeting process
acknowledge the need to engage with civil society, a dimension which
to date has been missing in the Andalucía exercise.
Gender budgeting and revenue policy
The practice of gender budgeting across Europe is almost exclusively
associated with the expenditure side of the budget, and in particular
with expenditure related to the delivery of public services. This
restrictive application of gender budgeting, with a lack of focus on
revenue and income transfers and on macro-level budgetary decisions,
including those relating to debt and deficits, excludes important
dimensions of fiscal policy with the potential for a significant impact
on gender equality.
Between the 1970s and 1980s most European countries removed
explicit discrimination against women from their tax codes. Today, the
personal income taxes in most European countries are gender neutral
and, for the most part, taxation is on an individual basis. Some
countries, however, still use some form of joint taxation, including
Germany, France and Portugal. It has been observed, for example,
that in Germany the system of ‘income splitting’, for the purpose of
joint filing, privileges couples on higher incomes and also works to
reinforce the male breadwinner model, and thus impedes gender
equality through women’s economic independence (Betzelt &
Bothfeld, 2011; Palier & Thelen, 2010).
When it comes to sales-type taxes (e.g. VAT and excises), the bias
is more implicit in nature, because taxation applies to the sale of a
good or service. However, there are important design issues with a
bearing on gender (Grown, 2010). For instance, applying reduced
VAT rates (either through zero rating, exemptions or lower-than-
standard rates) on products used in the provision of care would help
women, and in particular, women-headed households. Finally,
decisions to increase the tax take, particularly in times of fiscal
constraint, can contribute to the funding of much needed social
programmes that can enable women to better balance paid and unpaid
work, as well as mitigating the risk of a rise in poverty.
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Other aspects of the taxation system that impact adversely on the
tax burden of married women include: (i) allowances or tax deductions
granted to the husband, (ii) lack of consideration of childcare costs
and (iii) disallowing women to declare their own income (Stotsky,
1996, p. 8). Clearly, the burden of childcare costs remains a persistent
barrier to women’s engagement in the labour market, and
governments’ failure to adequately address the issue, through either
the tax or welfare system, is deeply problematic for women and
families, as well as for economic growth more broadly.
Leaving aside the removal of gender bias in the tax code, primarily
through individual filing and elimination of explicit discrimination,
there remains the issue of allowances and benefits. While individual
taxation is in place, entitlement to benefits by most governments is
most often based on joint assessment of their income. This attempt to
favour income redistribution within households may have had the
effect of reintroducing biases in favour of the traditional division of
labour.
Gender budgeting and tax policy
There is emerging evidence of a trend towards examining tax policy
from a gender perspective. Austria has produced regular studies on
the impact of its revenue policy on gender equality. More latterly,
Spain, Finland and Ireland are among other European countries that
have commissioned similar studies.
Austria
Within the framework of its gender budgeting initiative, the Ministry
of Finance in Austria is required to identify a gender equality objective
as part of its revenue policy. Currently, that objective is: ‘The tax
system supports a better distribution of paid and unpaid work between
women and men.’ Clearly this is not an objective that can be achieved
in one budget cycle, nor through any single measure. Thus, the
objective will remain relevant for some time to come, with successive
budget cycles introducing new measures and refining existing ones
towards a progressive realisation of the objective.
Among the measures that will contribute to the objective is a
reduced entry-level tax rate of 25 per cent (previously 36.5 per cent).
Further, reducing standard tax rates provides relief of 1.3 per cent for
the highest incomes, and up to 3.26 per cent for low and middle
incomes that exceed the tax threshold. Once the social security
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contribution refund is taken into account, incomes that are just over
the lower-earnings limit (Geringfügigkeitsgrenze) will benefit from
the highest relief of 4.22 per cent. As higher incomes receive relatively
less relief, given the current income differential, the gap between the
net disposable incomes of men and women will decline.
Another measure is an increase in the tax allowance for couples
with children. Currently, the allowance amounts to 220 per child, per
year. From 2016, the basic benefit will increase to 400 per child, per
year. As part of this reform, the benefit is enhanced when claimed by
both partners. This means that irrespective of their individual tax rate,
each will be eligible to claim 240 per child; should only one parent
claim, the amount due will be 400.
Spain
In its Equal Opportunities Strategic Plan, 2014–2016, the Government
of Spain (2014) committed to analysing the impact of taxation and
public benefits so as to gauge their influence on women’s labour
market participation and their ‘professional prospects’. The study
would also look at how social security regulations impact differently on
men and women, and particularly the impact of those regulations
related to part-time work.
Finland
Published in late 2015 the Finnish Government’s study on the
differential gender impact of tax changes covered the period from
1993 to 2012. Focused primarily on changes in income and
consumption taxes, the study also took account of changes in income
levels, income distribution and demography. The study reported that
the taxation of earned income had decreased by some eight and a half
percentage points, with women and men faring more or less equally.
With respect to consumption taxes, the study pointed to the challenges
of assessing the gender equality impact due to the inability of
allocating the taxes to individuals. The many changes – up and down –
in VAT cancelled each other out and the ratios of taxes on
consumption stayed almost unchanged during the period under
scrutiny. However, the study was not clear on the gender implications
of the distribution of VAT across a range of goods.
Ireland
A study carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute
investigated the gender impact of tax and benefit policy changes over
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the period from 2009 to 2013. This was a period of successive austerity
budgets in Ireland.
Using a microsimulation model based on a large-scale, nationally
representative sample, the study identified the impact of policy
changes as distinct from changes in employment, unemployment or
pre-tax incomes. Changes in disposable income were measured against
a base of 2008, compared to those of 2013.
The research found no sizeable gender difference of the impact of
Budgets 2009–13 for single people, with a loss of between 9 and 10 per
cent for both men and women. For both single men and women
without children, losses were greater at the bottom-income quintile,
driven by social welfare reductions, and at the top quintile, where
losses related to taxation and public sector pay changes.
One of the main limitations of the research was that it did not take
account of (i) the impact of cuts in public services nor (ii) the impact
of changes in indirect taxation. Work is ongoing to rework the model
to accommodate these dimensions. The study acknowledges that
neither of the study scenarios – i.e. full income sharing and no income
sharing – is likely to be accurate, but argues that the approach can help
to put approximate bounds on the impact of policy. Finally, the study
points to the usefulness of this approach to gender budgeting in that
the method could be applied ex ante and would allow a gender impact
assessment to be built into the budgetary process.
The role of civil society
Civil society has been a key driver of gender budgeting in Europe.
Quinn (2009) details the activities of a number of groups whose work
contributed to the emergence of government-led gender budgeting
initiatives at both national and regional levels. While civil society
fulfils a number of both supportive and critical roles in relation to
gender budgeting, it is perhaps its application of gender expertise to
economic policy that is of particular importance. At its most basic, the
resultant analysis is a straightforward extrapolation of, on the one
hand, how men and women contribute to, and are impacted by, the
economy, and, on the other, the factors that inhibit or enhance the
participation of both men and women towards the realisation of the
country’s full economic potential. While the analysis challenges
certain normative economic assumptions, it is evidence-based,
constantly pushing for the use of a wider spectrum of data in economic
policymaking.
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The contribution these groups make is vital to the broader project
of gender budgeting for at least three reasons: (i) framed as gender
mainstreaming, the reach of gender budgeting has largely been
restricted to public expenditure, thus leaving many facets of fiscal
policy unexamined; (ii) the depth and calibre of the analysis renders
the relevance of gender to economic policy indisputable; and (iii) its
dissemination among a broad community of academics, policymakers,
public representatives and citizens has elevated the debate and
educated the debaters.
Conclusions
Notwithstanding commitments to gender mainstreaming, most EU
countries do not design public policies with gender equality as a
primary consideration (Daly, 2011). As a consequence, many
disparities and inequalities between the sexes have become embedded,
to a great or lesser extent, in the baseline of public policies and the
allocation of public resources (OECD, 2016). Many countries in
Europe are engaged with gender budgeting as a way to redress these
disparities and inequalities. Gender budgeting provides an
opportunity to apply gender mainstreaming to the normal routines of
budgeting and thus help to bridge the gap between policymaking and
budget formulation. At the same time, gender budgeting, with its focus
on outcomes, is in line with ‘modern’ budgeting, with the focus on the
shift from inputs and outputs to outcomes and the measurement of
performance.
Gender budgeting has proven most successful in jurisdictions where
it has been underpinned by legislation. In most instances, changes to
the OBL, and other finance laws, mean that a gender perspective
becomes routine in all aspects of budget formulation, execution and
audit. These legal mandates include provisions for an annual gender
budget statement to parliament, the collection and management of
more sex-disaggregated and gender-relevant data, responsibility for
oversight of the gender dimension assigned either to existing budget
oversight and audit bodies or to a newly created body, and the
inclusion of a gender perspective as part of the regulatory process
governing the introduction of new legalisation and government
programmes.
One of the leading development economists and chair of the UK
Women’s Budget Group characterises gender budgeting as bringing
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together two sets of knowledge – knowledge on gender equality and
knowledge on public policy and finance – that have hitherto been kept
apart. For those responsible for budget formulation, the challenge
begins by determining the relevance of gender to the respective policy
sectors. Beyond this is analysis from a gender perspective, the
identification of gender equality objectives and the reorientation of
the budget towards their attainment. The importance of gender
expertise to these tasks cannot be overstated. This is particularly so
when seen within the context of the traditionally held view of the
budget as a gender-neutral, value-free instrument designed towards
the provision of public goods of equal benefit to all. Understanding
gender – how it is manifest in society and across the policy sectors, how
and what data are required, how it can be applied as a category of
analysis – is vital if meaningful gender equality objectives are to be
elaborated within the budgetary process.
In some countries the need for gender expertise is met in part by
aligning existing gender equality goals with gender budgeting goals.
The process of drafting the national gender equality strategy has
included some degree of consultation, and thus the strategy reflects a
high degree of gender expertise. In most instances, where a gender
equality strategy is in place, some of the goals articulated overlap with
national economic goals. Aligning gender budgeting initiatives with
gender equality goals could provide the basis for better gender
equality outcomes. Sweden and Finland are good examples where this
coordination is in place.
Budgetary and/or governance reforms have provided the stimulus
and the framework for the introduction of gender budgeting in a
number of countries. This has proven useful and is potentially a
productive modality to further explore and exploit. A recent OECD
report suggests that a fully implemented gender budgeting regime
represents ‘an advanced form of PFM [public financial management]
reform’ (OECD, 2016). In Northern Ireland and Scotland public
officials have exploited the respective new governance regimes, with
their enhanced mandates to promote equality, to integrate the
principle of equality into their budgetary processes.
Recommendations
As the administration in Ireland explores how to apply equality
budgeting, the following could prove useful in clarifying options:
114 SHEILA QUINN
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Examine the legal changes underpinning gender budgeting in some
jurisdictions – for example, Austria, Iceland and the Autonomous
Region of Andalucía – with a view to determining an appropriate
legislative initiative for Ireland.
Review the Central Statistics Office’s collection and management
of sex-disaggregated and gender-relevant data, and determine how
the processes can be improved so as to accommodate budgetary
decisions.
The IMF and the OECD have given renewed momentum to gender
budgeting. EU institutions are engaged in a number of research
initiatives focused on, among other things, how gender budgeting
can be applied to its budget. Ireland could seize the opportunity to
convene a high-level seminar on the topic and invite high-ranking
officials from those countries with sustained gender budgeting
initiatives to share their experiences.
Two mechanisms most commonly associated with gender budgeting
are worth consideration: (i) the inclusion of instructions on gender
budgeting in the regular budget circular issued by the Ministry of
Finance, and (ii) an annual gender budget statement, outlining how
the budget has contributed to the attainment of gender equality
outcomes, presented to parliament.
As with most new policy innovations, pilot projects are a useful way
of experimenting with available tools and of identifying the most
relevant and potentially productive budgetary programmes.
Gender budgeting in Europe: What can we learn from best practice? 115
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Appendix: Gender budgeting in Europe, data template
National initiatives Subnational
initiatives
Albania Austria Belgium Finland Iceland Macedonia Sweden Ukraine Andalucía Berlin
FYR
Origins
Does the government
have a gender budgeting
initiative? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
If yes, start year 2012 2004 2004 2006 2006 2012 2002/2014 2003 2003 2002
If any, end year
Supported by international
organisations or bilateral
aid agencies Yes No No No No Yes No Yes No No
Tied to MDGs or
national development
plan or gender equality
strategy Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Selected components of fiscal policy
Focus on spending Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Spending focus on key
human development
(education, health) Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
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Gender budgeting in Europe: What can we learn from best practice? 117
Appendix: Gender budgeting in Europe, data template (contd.)
National initiatives Subnational
initiatives
Albania Austria Belgium Finland Iceland Macedonia Sweden Ukraine Andalucía Berlin
FYR
Spending focus on physical
infrastructure (transport,
water, electricity, energy) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Spending focus on justice
and security (violence
against women, judicial
assistance) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Spending focus on jobs,
entrepreneurship, wages, etc. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Structural reforms in
spending (subsidies,
transfers, incentive or
distributional objectives) Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
Focus on revenue No No No Yes Yes No No No No No
Personal income tax focus No No No Yes No No No No No No
Other tax focus, including
general or selective sales
and trade No No No Yes No No No No No No
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Appendix: Gender budgeting in Europe, data template (contd.)
National initiatives Subnational
initiatives
Albania Austria Belgium Finland Iceland Macedonia Sweden Ukraine Andalucía Berlin
FYR
Indicators to place gender budgeting in the fiscal process
Broad statement of goals
of Minister for Finance Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gender budgeting
statement in budget
documentation Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Gender budgeting circular
or related to instruct the
bureaucracy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Gender budgeting in
planning and programming Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Gender budgeting outcome
report or audit Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Explicit reporting on gender
equality spending Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Legal basis
Gender budgeting has
constitutional standing No Yes No No No No No No Yes No
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Gender budgeting in Europe: What can we learn from best practice? 119
Appendix: Gender budgeting in Europe, data template (contd.)
National initiatives Subnational
initiatives
Albania Austria Belgium Finland Iceland Macedonia Sweden Ukraine Andalucía Berlin
FYR
Gender budgeting is
incorporated in organic
budget or other finance
laws No Yes No No Yes No No No Yes No
Role of government
Ministery of Finance
lead entity Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Other ministries play
consequential role and
which Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Subnational government No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Role of civil society
Significant encouragement
or participation of civil
society No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
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... The limited data on the effectiveness of the implementation of gender budgeting is explained by the relatively short duration of its implementation in international practice, significant differences between countries in the approaches used for its implementation, and the degree of coverage. However, while there is (albeit sparse) evidence of the positive effects 14 of gender budgeting or its absence, there are no examples in the scientific literature of the negative effects of its use. 15 Globally, countries have signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA) on gender equality and the empowerment of women, adopted by the 4th World Women Conference in 1995, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda). ...
... Since the vast majority of the world's countries have committed themselves to the 2030 Agenda and are involved in tracking 14 For example, a study among Indian states with widely divergent policies found statistically significant results that states practicing gender budgeting made more progress in achieving gender equality in primary school enrollment than states without it [12]. 15 16 )reported partial compliance with the indicator, and 13 reported full achievement of the indicator. ...
... It is worth noting that there are notable differences between countries in the extent, forms and approaches applied to the implementation of gender budgeting. For example, in Austria, it was part of large-scale reforms in the field of public finance, and in Belgium, implementation began with the adaptation of international obligations -the adoption of a law on monitoring the implementation of the BDPA [14]. Depending on the approach to the implementation of gender budgeting, the focus may be on budget 16 19 Belarus and Russia were noted as countries not practicing gender budgeting. ...
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This article asks to what extent there are common gender dimensions to the austerity policies that have been pursued in Ireland, and across the EU, throughout the economic crisis years. While focusing on the Irish experience in particular, a comparative perspective is used, drawing on analyses of core policies at EU level and exploring the gender patterns evident in the way in which economic and social policies have been developed and implemented. Evidence is presented of the disproportionate impact in Ireland of cuts in public expenditure on low-income households, lone parents, and unemployed households, and the way in which resources to care services have been de-prioritized. A detailed analysis of the gendered impact of the crisis in Ireland is seen to reinforce patterns that have been identified at global and EU levels. Consequences of decisions and choices made and their implications for gender equality and social inequality are examined, particularly the dismantling of equality legislative and policy infrastructure. Despite some important redistributive effects of social protection policies, new inequalities are revealed in inter-generational impacts of the crisis, which have received little attention, and are reflected in housing costs, negative labour market flexibility, a two-tier public sector, and emigration. The re-establishment of employment growth and other definite signs of recovery are unlikely to reverse the deepened inequalities that have marked this crisis, unless policies are radically changed.
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This paper examines the nature of gender bias in tax systems. Gender bias takes both explicit and implicit forms. Explicit gender bias is found in many personal income tax systems. Several countries, especially those in Western Europe, have undertaken to eliminate explicit gender bias in recent years. It is more difficult to identify implicit gender bias, since this depends in large part on value judgments as to desirable social and economic behavior. Implicit gender bias has also been a target for reform of tax systems in recent years.