Gender budgeting

Gender Budgeting: Where did it go?

Australia was the first country in the world to have gender budgeting

Did you know this? From 1983 to 2013 (3 decades!) the Federal Government released a Women’s Budget Statement. Australia was a pioneer in this respect. State and Territory Governments were also among the first in the world to analyse the impact of annual budgets on women and girls. But in 2014, the Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey budget ceased the practice. It hasn’t occurred for any subsequent budget.

What purpose does gender budgeting serve?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report that over 90 countries have used some form of gender budgeting over the last decade. Governments can use gender budgeting to promote gender equality via fiscal policy. Many aspects of budgetary policy including healthcare, childcare, and family payments disproportionately affect women.

Countries around the world have realised that budget measures affect men and women differently. Many use gender budgeting to both identify policies that are unequal as well as fund initiatives to help women. The aim is to either reduce government expenditure or increase workforce participation.

Analysis of federal budgets using a gender lens is not a silver bullet to achieve gender equality. However, is one of the measures that countries can use to ensure fiscal policy does not further erode, but supports progress.

What’s happening in other parts of the world?

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund is a proponent of gender budgeting. She believes that in order to create gender equality, tax laws in many countries must be changed. For countries who tax by family unit, this causes the secondary earner in the household, generally a woman, to be taxed at a higher rate. She also proposes that providing quality childcare is a must.

In Austria, taxation was reformed to reduce tax on secondary earners, which was found to be restricting women’s labour force participation. Austria also decided to reallocate funds to tackle domestic violence to reduce significant medical treatment costs and lost labour. South Korea funded programmes to reduce women’s burden of family care, enabling them to undertake paid employment more easily. In Rwanda, funding for sanitation programs improved girls’ attendance at school.

So should we consider bringing it back in Australia?

Miranda Stewart’s 2016 analysis of the impact of fiscal policy on Australian women, who are predominantly secondary earners, presents the case for doing so.

The Liberal Party currently have 21% women in parliament. According to the International Parliamentary Union data, this means that Australia ranks 54th in the world for representation of women in Parliament. Bolivia, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Mexico and Ethiopia all have higher representations of women in parliament.

There is still a significant gender imbalance in parliament, and a persistent wage and superannuation gap in Australia. Therefore, a women’s budget statement seems a practical and prudent measure to ensure that the female 50% of the represented constituents interests are appropriately considered.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.