Reading time ~ mins

Why is gender responsive budgeting needed?

While there has been progress on some aspects of gender equality, women throughout the world still experience structural inequality throughout their lives.

Gender roles and norms mean that women are more likely than men to have responsibility for unpaid work including childcare, care for older or disabled people, domestic work and in some countries for unpaid subsistence work. This reduces their time available for paid work and other activities.

  • It means that the provision of some public services, that reduce the amount of unpaid work that women do, can have a major effect on women’s opportunities and employment.
  • It also means that when public services are cut it is more likely to be women who increase their unpaid work to fill the gap and may have to give up employment or other opportunities to do so.

The expectation that women are responsible for unpaid work, discrimination in the workplace, and the undervaluing of work traditionally done by women means that women on average earn less than men, have lower incomes over a lifetime, accumulate lower levels of wealth and are more likely to be living in poverty.

  • This means that women are less likely to benefit from cuts to income tax than men, and more likely to benefit from public spending on public services or cash transfers/welfare benefits.
  • Women’s lower incomes and wealth relative to men mean that they particularly benefit from having good provision of public services. It also means that they are less likely to be able to afford private provision when public services are cut. User fees can be a greater problem for women and girls, who gain more from public services being free.
  • Women are less likely to be company owners or shareholders, so less likely to gain financially from cuts to taxes on business.

Income may not be shared equally within households, meaning women and girls may not benefit as much as men when household income rises.

  • Policies that concentrate on improving household incomes may not benefit women as much as those that target women’s incomes specifically.

Violence and abuse of women and girls continues to be widespread and underreported. Domestic violence and abuse often includes financial abuse:

  • Funding for specialist services for women who have experienced violence is vital to promoting gender equality. Cuts to such services can leave women without help to overcome trauma. For those currently experiencing violence, loss of services such as refuges can be life threatening.
  • Women’s access to independent income is important; policies that reduce it can increase women’s vulnerability to financial and other forms of abuse.

Women continue to be under-represented in public life.

  • Government policies (including economic policies) may not take women’s needs and priorities into account.
  • This lack of attention to women and girls’ needs can lead to policies that fail to meet the needs of women or increase gender inequalities. Gender budgeting is necessary to expose and prevent such consequences.

Gender responsive budgeting is a tool to analyse the potential gender impact of economic policies to develop policies that will promote equality between women and men. It should be done by governments to ensure that their policies reduce rather than increase gender inequalities.

Gender impact analysis can also improve the efficiency of policy making, by highlighting potential unintended consequences that government might otherwise not foresee. This efficiency argument is often the most persuasive for governments.

Gender responsive budgeting can also be used by non-government groups to highlight the potential or actual gender impact of policies to advocate for policies that will decrease gender inequalities and meet the needs of both women and men.