The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines gender budgeting as “integrating a clear gender perspective within the overall context of the budgetary process through special processes and analytical tools, with a view to promoting gender-responsive policies.”
In May 2017 OECD held an Experts Meeting on Gender Budgeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, where delegates from OECD countries met to share practical experiences, successes, and challenges in implementing gender budgeting. The first meeting of OECD Gender Equality Institutions, “Better Governance for Gender Equality” was held concurrently, bringing together senior officials from OECD countries’ gender equality institutions and representatives from the OECD’s Centre of Government to promote gender-sensitive policymaking and share insights into ways to help increase the impact of gender equality initiatives.
In addition, international financial institutions have been producing new research on the impact of countries’ implementation of gender budgeting. Notably, in April 2017 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a new publication analyzing recent trends in gender budgeting in G7 countries.
In the wake of renewed interest in the intersection of gender and public finance, and given the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ambitious aim to achieve full gender equality by 2030, it is important to review what we know about gender budgeting as a means to achieve full parity, and determine what may be required to fill in the current knowledge gaps.
How is Gender Budgeting Currently Implemented?
The means by which gender budgeting practices are implemented can take several different forms that are rarely limited to the budget. It’s not just about funding explicit initiatives aimed to achieve gender equality; rather, it entails an analysis of fiscal policies and budgetary decisions and their impact on gender equality.
Some governments adopt gender-informed resource allocations, in which gender equality is used as a metric in determining specific policy decisions and budgetary allocations. South Korea, for example, increased funding of programs that aim to reduce the burden of domestic work for women, allowing them greater opportunities to participate in the work force.
Another common approach is through gender-assessed budgets, in which the budget impact is analyzed in terms of gender equality. In Canada the government’s Gender Budget Statement (GBS) is produced alongside other key government budget documents. The GBS provides gender-based analysis of the budget, identifying the ways policies may affect women differently than men.
Yet another approach is needs-based gender budgeting, which sets out to achieve specific goals in decreasing disparity in sectors and programs where gender inequalities are greatest. This can take several forms, such as allocating a portion of the health care budget to improving the quality of maternal care. The Philippines implemented gender-responsive budget policy initiatives as early as 1995 with its Gender and Development (GAD) Budget. The GAD Budget resulted in gender-specific planning in government departments and their respective agencies and bureaus.
What Has Been Achieved So Far?
Important gains have been made in the implementation of gender-responsive budgeting practices in countries around the world.
The implementation of gender-responsive budgeting in Pakistan through a dedicated project called the Gender Responsive Budgeting Initiative (GRBI) yielded impressive gains in making the government’s budgetary system more gender-sensitive. The GRBI was initiated at the federal level, in the province of Punjab and in two pilot districts of Punjab, one of which was among the wealthiest and the other among the poorest. The GRBI implemented a series of changes, including a gender-aware policy appraisal that analyzed the situation of women and men, girls and boys in the given sector, and assessed the extent to which the formulation, funding, and implementation of the policies and programs within that same sector addressed gender issues. GRBI also saw an opportunity in the government’s shift to a medium-term budget framework (MTBF), and proposed refinements to the MTBF and gender-sensitive amendments to budget call circulars. Though challenges remain, over the course of the project’s implementation a myriad of activities have been successfully undertaken, ranging from awareness raising to advocacy to detailed, in depth studies and surveys.
The IMF’s paper provides an overview of gender-responsive budgeting concepts and practices in the G7 countries. Notable examples include France’s 2014 Gender Equality law, which integrates gender equality into policymaking, requires that gender implications be assessed in each new law, and establishes quotas for women in senior management positions in the civil service, politics, and the private sector. In Germany gender equality has been a guiding principle in the Joint Rules
of Procedure of the Federal Ministries since 2000, and funds for the promotion of gender equality are included in nearly all of the federal government’s budget items.
Where Do We Go from Here?
It is clear that gender budgeting has come a long way in the past decade. However, there is still a long way to go, especially if we aim to achieve SDG5 in 2030. Gender responsive budgeting has taken numerous forms in countries, with varying rates of success. As these IMF case studies suggest, the success of gender budgeting initiatives in countries depends largely on whether reforms are specifically tailored to the country context. Experts point to several lessons learned about the use of gender budgeting, and additional improvements are needed in order to ensure that government budgets reflect gender-specific needs of citizens. Governments need to:
- Ensure well-structured fiscal policies and sound public finance management (PFM) systems to contribute to gender equality and support progress already made. The importance of strong PFM institutions and systems cannot be understated. Progress can easily become stilted or end completely when institutions fail to stand up to regime and policy change.
- Embed gender in budgeting and policymaking routines. Gender responsive budgeting cannot happen in a vacuum. In most cases, implementing gender-responsive initiatives is most effective when they are not overly burdensome to existing processes already in place.
- Strengthen impact measurement and evaluation. In order to adequately judge the success or failure of different gender-related reforms, it is necessary that countries have specific indicators and means of measurement of their progress.
- Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries by the International Monetary Fund (May 2017)
- Presentations the OECD Experts Meeting on Gender Budgeting (May 2017)
- IBP Budget Brief: Participation in Public Finance Reform and Gender (April 2015)
- Gender Responsive Budgeting in Pakistan: Experience and Lessons Learned (November 2007)