Monday 18 July 2022
Public financial management (PFM) covers a wide range of public expenditure on services and goods. Resources are always constrained and so decisions are needed about priority objectives that consider the needs of everyone, so that they are allocated equally and fairly.
PFM budgeting often uses terms such as “taxpayer”, “worker”, “household” or “family” to refer to the populace. The population of girls and women has some specific characteristics around lower incomes, household and family role such as around caring obligations or status, employment and other attributes, and further differentiated by attributes including race, age, social class or health.
Women’s contribution to delivering policy objectives such as through unpaid labour is not valued or recognised in the same way as inputs like income tax. Women’s voices are also less likely to be heard in the policy and decision-making process, compared to groups like lobbyists or business representatives, and women are often underrepresented in employment in the public expenditure process and policy formulation.
What is gender budgeting and why is it important?
Gender budgeting is an example of modern PFM in being a form of performance budgeting. It builds on traditional financial budgeting – which aims to deliver priorities within a balanced budget based on revenues as the key input - with a specific focus on objectives of social justice, that also link to global development goals, and performance measurement (outputs) to evaluate achievement of them. It links to programme budgeting in embedded programme objectives and goals in budget development.
Gender budgeting helps to ensure that gender equality is reflected in budget decisions. The OECD identifies gender budgeting as a key tool of a system-wide government approach to deliver gender equality outcomes. Gender equality is a key to sustainability. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include goals relating gender equality and reducing inequality, and others with related aspects like quality education.
Gender budgeting is a key PFM tool towards achieving these goals. It includes a gender perspective throughout, from policy formulation, to implementation, evaluation and improvement, and thus restructures public funds and so helps to achieve equality. This sort of performance budgeting also requires performance measures to evaluate achievement of objectives, with clear realistic targets and, thus, processes for generating and analysing data. It also requires regular review to ensure compliance that this is operating properly rather than as “lip service” to such goals. Gender budgeting also evaluates gender balanced representation in decision-making at all levels and measures to improve gender equality.
Consider a process of land and property rights. These services need to ensure that women – who as a group are poorer and are also more likely to have caring obligations and face vulnerability in the event of household change - have equal opportunity to obtain and retain a tenure suitable for their circumstances. Is right of tenure for individual women recognised in law? Is the process of allocation and decision-making on awarding tenure fair, such as suitable tenures reflecting households with caring obligations? Does the process allow a woman to obtain and retain tenure in her own individual right and to carry it on if circumstances change, so that women and their households are not more vulnerable when problems arise? Is the whole process accessible to women (e.g. family members cared for at appointment times)? Is there equal representation of women in the policy making and implementation?
This is one indicative example for one area of policy and performance measurement process that is needed to evaluate achievements. Implementing gender budgeting can be a significant exercise but one that needs to be undertaken to help ensure equality and social justice.
Where can I find out more about gender budgeting?
There are now many examples of guidance in, and application of, gender budgeting from across the globe to draw on. Here are some examples of sources.
The Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) programme has developed tools for assessing gender responsive PFM with indicators measuring how far PFM systems address the government’s goals with regard to acknowledging different needs of women and men. The European Institute for Gender Equality provides guidance for mainstreaming gender into the EU Funds in its Step‑by-step Toolkit for Gender Budgeting. The Women’s Budget Group has been working with Oxfam to develop a comprehensive set of Gender Responsive Budgeting resources.
The Public Finance Management Act of Uganda obliges government entities to specify measures budget measures taken to equalise opportunities for women, men persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups and The Equal Opportunities Commission review compliance with requirements. Albania has adopted Gender Responsive Budgeting, with measures including embedding gender equality in PFM legislation, and requiring gender-based objectives with performance measures in local finance, programme objectives and data, collection, monitoring and evaluation.
What progress is being made on gender budgeting, and what are the risks to more?
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has observed that gender budgeting is gaining some momentum internationally and that taking a gender analysis approach to revenue raising and resource allocation helps improve understanding of how decisions affect women and men differently because of their experiences in family and household structures, employment and caring and providing for others. Public resources can be therefore directed to best effect at revealed social inequalities.
Around half of OECD countries have introduced, or are in the progress of introducing, gender budgeting. The political leadership and will is still needed in some states to lead the push for gender budgeting and ensure it gains traction. The growth of programme budgeting is often seen as helpful in supporting development programme objectives as they can be embedded in budget development.
Gender budgeting is not a paper exercise, and analysis can identify opportunity to improve services for girls and women, in addition to performance evaluation. Compliance with gender budgeting requirements remains an issue in some states - from not participating through not delivering performance information - without which it is also harder to achieve objectives such as the SDGs. Scrutiny such as via Supreme Audit Institution has an important role in supporting the mainstreaming of gender budgeting.
Another development step is to consider how to value the inputs of women and girls such as unpaid labour and household management in delivering society and community, in order to place more significance on these in the budgeting process, alongside the historical prioritisation of tax revenues.
As with many PFM initiatives, implementation may involve a long process of change, and thus face typical risks such as government or policy change, competing priorities, resource constraints or implementation fatigue. As other global developments like climate change and rising prices put pressure on public finances, gender budgeting should not be seen as optional - to be scaled back when things get tight - but protected as an essential part of PFM to achieve equality, ensure delivery of development objectives and sustainability.
Moreover, it should help to ensure that girls and women are not disproportionately impacted by cutbacks at times of scarcity.
 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
 Supplementary framework for gender responsive public financial management (The Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability programme)
 Gender budgeting: Step‑by-step toolkit Guidance for mainstreaming gender into the EU Funds – European Institute for Gender Equality (Publications Office of the European Union, 2020)
 Toolkit Gender Responsive Budgeting – Women’s budget group
 Public Finance Management Act 2015 – Republic of Uganda (Section 9.6)
 Improved measures and data are essential in supporting better gender responsive decisions for budgeting – CIPFA
 Gender budgeting for public finance – CIPFA
About the Author
Victoria Bainbridge is a consultant and trainer with a specialism in public financial management. Most recently technical advisor and business development manager on international public financial management projects, alongside assignments in local commerce and academia in Germany. Qualified UK accountant (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) and has Certified Internal Auditor qualification. Other expertise includes audit, governance and control, financial systems and processes, and project management and implementation.