Since 1 January 2013, a regulatory impact assessment should accompany all drafted legislation starting from its inception within the responsible ministries up to parliament. As part of this procedure, the dimension of gender equality has to be addressed with respect to benefits, employment, income, education, unpaid work, decision-making and health.
The scope of application of impact assessment and therefore also of gender impact assessment affects all laws, ordinances, other legal frameworks and major projects originating in ministries and other public bodies.
Civil servants involved in law drafting at the level of each competent ministry are thus in charge of addressing gender-related aspects as part of this more general impact assessment exercise. They are assisted by technical services of the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Chancellery, but no gender equality machinery is directly involved in performing gender impact assessments in Austria.
To perform this work, two main tools have been designed so far to support gender mainstreaming and gender impact assessment implementation:
- A regulatory impact assessment IT tool, which contains a guided process for carrying out a comprehensive impact assessment that takes into account gender equality;
- Guidelines on regulatory impact assessment, which provide an overview of the regulatory impact assessment, which in turn outlines in detail the range of impacts of regulation, including from a gender equality perspective:
There is one list of questions guiding gender impact assessment in Austria. Detailed answers should be provided underlying the gender impact assessment, including statistical data whenever possible:
- Does the new law have an impact on either education or vocational training, the labour force or on employment status (such as being gainfully employed in general, including self-employment) and/or the income of women and men?
- Does the new law have any impact on the employment status of either women or men?
- What kind of impact on employment status (in terms of quantity and quality) between women and men can be expected? Is an increase or a decrease in jobs (whether full-time, part-time or according to the different employment contracts available in Austria) to be expected? How many jobs (full-time equivalents) will be created? What will the expected employment ratio of females to males look like?
- Does the new law influence access to education, vocational training, job decision-making and participation in education opportunities and/or educational qualifications? What types of schools/educational institutions/educational sectors are involved? Are there material differences between women and men, or respectively, between girls and boys? How many educational qualifications and recommencements are concerned?
- Are any impacts on the gender pay gap expected?
- Does the new law have other relevant impacts on gender equality (e.g. protection against violence, access to mobility, infrastructures, information)?
Strenghts and weaknesses
In Austria, gender impact assessment is a side effect effect of the general regulatory impact assessment to be performed for any new piece of legislation, ordinance or major project, as long as it has an impact on public resources allocation. This constitutional obligation includes a gender impact assessment and also resonates with the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the country. There are also guidelines and specific questions to be answered when carrying out the assessment. That is why, in principle, the process is fully integrated in the drafting of legal and policy measures at the state and the regional level.
However, there seems to be a clear focus on the budgetary impact of draft laws in practice, whereas the other impact dimensions are rarely addressed. In-depth gender impact assessment is scarce. Furthermore, quality control, from a gender equality perspective, may appear rather formal, as it is not performed by the gender equality machinery and no gender expertise is required during the process.