Gender budgeting is a strategy to achieve equality between women and men by focusing on how public resources are collected and spent.

What is Gender Budgeting?

Gender budgeting is a strategy to achieve equality between women and men by focusing on how public resources are collected and spent. ‘Gender budgeting is an approach to budgeting that can improve it, when fiscal policies and administrative procedures are structured to address gender inequality … When properly done, one can say that gender budgeting is good budgeting’ (Stotsky, 2016) [1].

Definition and Purpose

The Council of Europe defines gender budgeting as a ‘gender based assessment of budgets incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality’. [2]

The purpose of Gender Budgeting is threefold:

  1. to promote accountability and transparency in fiscal planning;

  2. to increase gender responsive participation in the budget process, for example by undertaking steps to involve women and men equally in budget preparation;

  3. to advance gender equality and women’s rights.

The EU legal policy framework for gender budgeting

Gender budgeting has a firm basis in the EU commitment to gender mainstreaming expressed in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [3]. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have repeatedly called on the Member States to develop and implement gender budgeting.

At EU level, the European Parliament is ultimately responsible for the EU budget and the European Commission Directorate-General for Budget for its execution. EU Member States’ parliaments and public administrations are responsible for their national and subnational budget cycles.

Gender budgeting can be applied at different levels

Gender budgeting can be applied to any type of budget system at all levels of government.

Gender budgeting at central government level. Introducing gender budgeting at central government level is important because budgetary decisions on both revenue and expenditure are made at this level. For practical examples on how gender budgeting has been integrated at central government level, please see the Austrian example.

Gender budgeting at regional and local government levels. Regional and local governments’ proximity to people’s everyday lives means there is potential to respond more directly to women’s and men’s needs when it comes to public policy and service delivery. At these levels, there is great potential to use participatory gender budgeting approaches involving the local population. For a practical example, please see the approach applied in Andalusia, Spain.

Enabling factors for gender budgeting

Effective implementation of gender budgeting requires political commitment matched with a technical capacity for gender mainstreaming. Engaged leadership is of particular importance to ensure that gender equality is integrated into the planning and budgeting processes and that public budget revenues and expenditures benefit women and men equally.

Key enabling factors for gender budgeting include:

  • political will and political leadership;

  • high-level commitment of public administrative institutions;

  • improved technical capacity of civil servants;

  • civil society involvement;

  • sex-disaggregated data.

How does gender budgeting work?

In order to put in place an effective implementation of gender budgeting, some common elements should be present:

  • analysis of budgets and policies from a gender perspective;

  • linking gender budgeting to overall gender equality objectives;

  • restructuring budgets and amending policies;

  • integrating gender perspectives throughout the budget cycle;

  • monitoring and evaluation of achievements;

  • transparency of the budget process;

  • participation in the budget process.

Gender budgeting approaches

International experience shows that there are many different approaches to implementing gender budgeting. The most important approaches used in different gender budgeting initiatives are:

  • mainstreaming gender perspectives into the whole process of public finance management;

  • integrating gender perspectives into performance-based and programme-based budgeting;

  • categorising budget programmes and gender analysis requirements;

  • linking gender budgeting and participatory budgeting;

  • tracking financial allocations to promote women’s rights and gender equality;

  • applying standard gender budgeting tools such as gender aware policy and budget appraisal, gender disaggregated public expenditure and revenue incidence analysis, and gender responsive beneficiary needs assessments;

  • wellbeing gender budgeting;

  • combining gender budgeting with impact assessments.

These different approaches are sometimes combined. The list is not exhaustive, as many tailor-made variations exist in actual gender budgeting practice.

Why is gender budgeting important?

Gender budgeting is good budgeting

‘Gender budgeting is not a special approach to budgeting or even an add-on to budgeting. Rather, gender budgeting is an approach to budgeting that can improve it, when fiscal policies and administrative procedures are structured to address gender inequality and women’s development needs. When properly done, one can say that gender budgeting is good budgeting’ (Stotsky, 2016). [5]

There are several important principles underlying a high-quality budget process. Modern standards of public financial management include principles such as performance orientation, transparency, accountability, participation, etc., that can only be applied if a gender perspective is integrated.

  • Accountability. Since an important part of gender budgeting is analysing the impact of budgets on women and men, it is also considered to be an important part of monitoring how the budget is working towards meeting gender equality goals in a country. Researchers therefore consider gender budgeting to be ‘a mechanism for establishing whether a Government’s gender equality commitments translate into budgetary commitments’. [6] Applying gender budgeting will therefore make governments accountable for their gender policy commitments. Here civil society and the media play a crucial role in monitoring and holding the government accountable for their budgets. The Women’s Budget Group in the United Kingdom is a good example of this.

  • Transparency. If applied in a systematic manner, gender budgeting can contribute to increasing participation in the budget process and thereby also increase transparency. Increased participation in the budget process can be achieved by establishing a practice of public consultation and participation in budget preparation, or of public participation in monitoring the budget.

  • Performance and results orientation. Results-based budgeting brings strategic planning and public finance management closer together by linking policy targets and objectives more closely with budgets. This is done by defining targets, objectives and activities and establishing a functioning monitoring system based on performance indicators to measure progress towards reaching the objectives. A true performance-oriented approach only happens when gender budgeting is integrated in performance budgeting. This is because gender budgeting provides evidence on performance from gender perspectives that will promote the most effective and efficient allocation of resources and implementation of policies.

  • Effectiveness. Gender budget analysis contributes to improved information on the potentially different situations and needs of women and men, as well as on distributional effects and the impact of resources on women and men. Thus, gender budgeting provides the basis for better and more evidence-based decision-making. This in turn contributes to ensuring that public funds are being used more effectively.

Gender Budgeting is a condition for sustainable and inclusive growth in the European Union

Gender equality is not just a fundamental human right: achieving gender equality also brings tremendous socioeconomic benefits. Several studies have shown that reducing gender inequality has many positive effects and leads to higher growth rates, healthier children, improved labour productivity and a more responsive government. [7] Thus, gender responsive budgets, and related policies, will contribute towards achieving gender equality and will simultaneously improve the population’s welfare and lead to more sustainable and inclusive growth and employment.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has researched how improvements in gender equality can contribute to sustainable, inclusive and smart economic growth in the European Union. EIGE’s e-study on the economic benefits of gender equality is unique in the EU context. It is the first of its kind to use a robust econometric model to estimate a broad range of macroeconomic benefits of gender equality in several broad areas such as education, labour market activity and wages. It also considers the demographic impact of such improvements.

The study shows that more gender equality would lead to the following:

  • Between 6.3 million and 10.5 million additional jobs in 2050 due to improvements in gender equality by addressing gender segregation in educational choices and increasing the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with about 70 % of these jobs taken by women.
  • An increase in employment productivity and in the potential productive capacity of the economy as a result of addressing the underrepresentation of women in sectors with skill shortages and good employment prospects such as STEM.
  • Positive GDP per capita impact that increases over time. In the EU, improving gender equality would contribute to an increase in GDP per capita of up to 9.6 % by 2050.
  • Individual gains of up to 12 % in GDP per capita by 2050 in EU Member States with lower gender equality [8] if gender equality measures were implemented.

EIGE’s study puts forward evidence showing that placing gender equality at the heart of the follow-up strategy of Europe 2020 and other policy reforms would make the economic system inclusive, enabling women to meet their full potential, and hence benefiting women and the whole of society. This would enable the EU to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

For more information on the study, read EIGE's report on the empirical application of the model, the briefing papers presenting the findings of the study or visit the online platform with visualised results.

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