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Fridays Academy: Gender Budgeting

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

As usual on Fridays, from Raj Nallari and Breda Griffith's lecture notes.


Gender Budgeting – why and how

As noted last week, gender mainstreaming represents the catalyst for gender budgeting going beyond programs designed to specifically target women. Elson (2002) remarked that government budgets are not gender neutral but in fact gender blind, having different effects on women and men. A gender-responsive budget according to Elson  “does not aim to produce a separate budget for women. Instead it aims to analyze any form of public expenditure, identifying implications and impacts for women and girls as compared to men and boys. The key question is: what impact does this fiscal measure have on gender equality? Does it reduce gender inequality; increase it; or leave it unchanged?”.   

The rationale for gender responsive budgeting is well-made given the level and degree of gender inequality that pervades. While gender inequality is unjust, it also has macroeconomic implications in lower growth, weaker economic stability and gender inequality in consumption has very real effects when it comes to household decisions regarding spending on health and education. Previous postings have presented some evidence for why we should have gender budgeting.


Stotsky (2006) also discusses externalities as a justification for gender budgeting. In general, the existence of externalities is a catalyst for government intervention and reducing externalities motivates sensible budgeting. The difficulty lies in measuring the externality and choosing the appropriate measure for intervention. Options include introducing a tax, changing a law, subsidizing a policy, increasing spending. All measures have implications for fiscal policy. Thurow (1971) suggests that externalities can encompass equity as well as efficiency considerations. Public intervention may be justified if the result is that society moves to a fairer distribution of income or well-being. Similarly, if gender equality results in a more just society, even without economic growth, public intervention may be justified. As noted above, choosing the appropriate intervention is difficult. “Governments can subsidize private activities that raise the status of women or reduce gender inequalities, or they can provide such services themselves, depending on the extent of the externality” (Stotsky, 2006; p. 14). An example is spending on women’s health care or education – government could provide the service themselves or subsidize private provision.    

Gender budgeting on the expenditure side can take one of three approaches as suggested by the box below from Sarraf (2003). Furthermore, the revenue side of the budget is also subject to gender policy as well as gender impact analysis. Stotsky refers to the more recent initiatives that attempt to assess revenue policies. To this end, personal income tax and the ability of individuals to file independently or jointly on the basis of income represents one of the main methods now available. Heretofore, many countries discriminated against women in personal income tax. While this discrimination is largely absent in developed economies, Stotsky notes that in developing economies “it is still possible to find personal income taxes with such gender-biased attributes as assigning, for tax purposes, all non-wage income to the husband, regardless of who owns the property (embodying the assumption that a women’s property belongs to her husband); or assigning larger allowances to men, reducing their effective tax rate; or applying a reduced tax rate on the same income” . Stotsky  also notes that a gender-bias characterizes many indirect taxes, for example there may be a bias against men in excise taxes on for example alcohol, smoking and gambling given that it is predominantly men in most societies that undertake these activities.

Source:  Sarraf (2003)

The first group of expenditures is common to most national budgets and has been in effect for several decades. Such expenditures target specific projects and programs – public awareness campaigns, publicity campaigns on gender equality – and are predominantly housed within women affairs ministries or equivalent organizations. Thus the scope of these expenditures is limited and not indicative of the gender mainstreaming approach that is captured by the third group of spending. The third group advocates cross sectoral gender analysis and includes many government spending agencies and is therefore represents the GRGB approach as outlined earlier. The second group of expenditures is confined to personnel policy within government and refers to a gender analysis of personnel policies and not budgetary policies. The first and third group relate primarily to government budget preparation and implementation.