At the end of 2013, Belgium adopted the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA), which is a preliminary assessment of potential consequences of regulatory projects in the social, economic and environment fields as well as on public authority. It includes a section on gender.
The RIA integrates 21 subjects among which four are analysed here in greater detail:
- The Kafka test, which aims to capture whether draft regulations will increase or reduce administrative burdens on citizens, businesses and non-profit organisations;
- The policy coherence test for development;
- The SME test, which screens the small and medium enterprise dimension;
- The gender test, which assesses the impact of regulation proposals on women and men.
Therefore, the gender impact assessment is embedded within a more general impact assessment system.
The scope of application of impact assessment and therefore also of gender impact assessment affects only new bills. As in the case of Austria, civil servants involved in law drafting within the different ministries are in charge of addressing gender-related aspects as part of this more general impact assessment exercise.
Each minister is accountable to provide the impact assessment report on projects of regulations for policy areas covered under its authority. They can also choose to ask for advice from the impact assessment helpdesk.
When the assessment is completed the ministers may ask for quality evaluation from the impact assessment committee, which operates under the supervision of the Agency for Administrative Simplification (AAS). This committee provides an ex post evaluation through an annual report. Its mandate is based on three principles: independence, confidence and transparency.
The Institute of Equality for Women and Men does not have a specific role during the process. It provides only recommendations to the public authorities to improve the relevant laws and regulations from a gender equality point of view.
In Belgium, the gender test provides five open questions to assess the impact of the proposal on women and men:
- Which persons are impacted by the new regulation (directly or indirectly) and how are these persons or group of persons disaggregated by sex? If no one is concerned, explain why.
- Identify the possible differences between the situation of women and men in the field.
- Some of those differences restrict the access to resources and fundamental rights? Why?
- Identification of positive or negative foreseen impacts taking into account the above questions.
- Measures to reduce or compensate the negative impact.
Strenghts and weaknesses
The fact that gender impact assessment in Belgium is integrated into an overall system of impact assessment is both a strength — it is sure to be taken into account by all policymakers and civil servants — and a weakness, since the analysis from a gender perspective can be quite blurred. This is because gender expertise during the process as well as a follow-up system to guarantee the quality of the gender impact assessment is not ensured.