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Budgeting for Gender

August 16, 2017

What is gender responsive budgeting? Gender responsive budgeting (GRB), or gender budgeting, refers to the strategy of assessing and/or preparing fiscal budgets through a gendered lens.

It is a form of gender mainstreaming, or the effort to “design public policies and use policy instruments with the promotion of gender equality in mind.”[1] The concept of gender mainstreaming was first introduced at the 1985 Third World Conference on Women and has been long promoted by the UN and other organizations. The goal is to integrate equally the concerns and experiences of both women and men in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies in all political, economic and societal spheres in order to ultimately achieve gender equality.[2] Since budgeting and fiscal policy can be integral in resource redistribution, gender budgeting is a great tool for institutions to reach this aim.

There are varieties of approaches to gender budgeting that have been implemented and proposed around the world. According to the IMF report on Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries, some policies are directly fiscal in nature, broadly addressing government expenditure, budgeting and tax reforms and narrowly focusing on public financial management practices in different stages of budgeting. Alternatively, policies can also target gender objectives while not being fiscally-rooted; for example, equal opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation, and welfare and social security reforms all have gender implications.[3]

Why budget for gender?

Financial institutions have long regarded the concept of gender, as well as other social categorizations, as irrelevant to their work. After all, feminist advocacy usually centers around legislation and social justice. However, gender inequality is structurally embedded, and budgeting, as a form of resource allocation, and fiscal policy, as a regulation of the flow of capital in the economy, do not exist in a vacuum exempt from this reality. When financial ministries operate under the assumption of neutrality, what they are actually doing is perpetuating an historically unequal system.

In an ideal world, that fact alone would be enough to convince institutions to adopt gender budgeting. Luckily, governments are also incentivized by the fact that reduced gender inequality is reflected in increased GDP growth.[4]That is because a pillar of gender inequality is the oppression of women as dependents through their erasure from the formal economy. The present economic system measures the production of labor, while disregarding the reproduction of labor, or domestic labor such as care for the home, children and elderly.[5] It is not that women have been absent from capital production, but rather they have been excluded from its quantification. Economic gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting thus look to structural changes that can legitimize and address the needs of this hidden segment of the market, which becomes directly reflected in GDP. For example, a study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that “if Latin American women [participated] in the [formal] economy identically to men, the full potential boost to GDP [would] be $2.6 trillion, or an additional 34 percent of GDP.” [6]

What policies are targeted by gender budgeting?

As aforementioned, gender budgeting can take on many forms. It is important to remember that gender budgeting does not require an entirely new approach to budgeting, nor does it mean the creation of separate budgets for each gender. Instead, it is the explicit consideration of the existence of gender inequalities when designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating a budget or policy.[7] Below are some examples of gender budgeting regimes.

Shifting to performance-based budgeting from program-based budgeting. Instead of measuring costs on the input-side, performance-based budgeting focuses on returns and objectives on the output-side. This type of budgeting lends itself well to incorporating social policy goals like achieving gender equality.[8]

Image: This graph displays women's share of seats in national parliaments.Source: International Monetary Fund Image: This graph displays women's share of seats in national parliaments.
Source: International Monetary Fund Credit: International Monetary Fund

Promoting women to decision-making roles.

Including women on policymaking committees or creating gender-related ministries diversifies the perspective upon which programs and policies are built. This also addresses the leadership gap, or the disparity of women in leadership and government positions around the world. [9]

Image: This graph displays the gender wage gap in countries around the world. Source: International Monetary Fund Image: This graph displays the gender wage gap in countries around the world.

Source: International Monetary Fund

Credit: International Monetary Fund

Strengthening domestic institutions and social safety nets.

Women disproportionately earn less than men, depend on public assistance, and receive less education. Strengthening domestic institutions to better provide services to women at all stages of their lives will allow them to achieve more equal footing with their male counterparts in the economy. For example, providing public pre-school and protecting social security would reduce the burden of childcare and elderly care, respectively, that women uniquely face. [10]

Establishing institutions to monitor gender goals and produce gender-specific research is a means to formally integrate a gendered lens into the system. Such institutions can score policies and programs based on gender implications, identify areas for growth, and hold governments accountable.[11]

What are examples of gender budgeting models around the world?

The United States

The United States is one of seven countries to have not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and it has not adopted gender budgeting at the federal level. While some federal policies exist that directly target gender inequality—such as antidiscrimination laws and initiatives related to violence against women, affordable health care, and access to higher education—the country still experiences a gender disparity in economic participation and pay. The U.S. notably lags its advanced counterparts when it comes to paid family leave. [12]

Nevertheless, there are gender budgeting initiatives at local levels. In San Francisco, the city’s Department on the Status of Women implemented a local ordinance in compliance with CEDAW and developed gender analysis guidelines by which to judge city departments.[13] A task force examined all city departments’ budgeting, hiring, and service provision practices and made recommendations. The Department on the Status of Women also assessed the number of women in local government and in 2008, amended the city charter to ensure that commissions and boards reflected the diversity of the city’s population. [14]


France also has not formally adopted gender budgeting, however the federal government has implemented several of the tools to its budget process. The annual budget includes a Gender Budget Statement, which assesses fiscal policies through a gendered lens, “summarizes the executive’s roadmap to gender equality, and contains some performance indicators.”[15] Beyond budgeting, France’s 2014 Law on Gender Equality required gender mainstreaming to be integrated into every ministry and new law. Quotas were established for women in public and private leadership positions, and policies addressed discrimination in the workplace and gender-based violence. As of 2013, the country also has an independent monitoring body that selects and reviews laws for their differential impact by gender and makes recommendations to the government. [15]


In 2009, the Austrian Constitution was amended to require gender budgeting at all levels of government and this laid the groundwork for public management reforms in 2013 that transitioned the federal government to performance-based budgeting. Presently, “every line ministry in the federal government must set at least one gender-related objective [sic] which are then related to specific tasks.”[16] Recent tax reforms have also reduced taxation on secondary earners in order to promote women’s participation in the workforce and alleviate the gender pay gap. [17]


India formally adopted gender budgeting in 2005 after the federal government commissioned the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), a think tank within the Ministry of Finance, to study the existence and efficacy of programs for women within all Ministries and Departments of Central Government. The NIPFP traced a link between fiscal policy and gender development and formulated an analytical methodology to categorize public expenditures by degree at which they targeted women—a framework now integrated into a “Gender Budget Statement” in all budgetary documents.[18] The research conducted by the NIPFP catalyzed gender mainstreaming at the national and subnational levels. For example, to combat the gender disparity in education, one gender budgeting program funded the construction of safe and accessible toilet facilities in schools. That is because this was found to be a critical factor affecting the school attendance of adolescent girls. [19]

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  [1] Ronnie Downes, Lisa Von Trapp, Scherie Nicol. “Gender Budgeting in OECD Countries” OECD Journal on Budgeting, Vol. 2016/3. 2017. https://www.oecd.org/gender/Gender-Budgeting-in-OECD-countries.pdf 

  [2] United Nations General Assembly. “Chapter IV: Coordination Segment” Report of the Economic and Social Council for 1997. September 18, 1997. https://www.un.org/documents/ga/docs/52/plenary/a52-3.htm 

  [3] International Monetary Fund. “Introduction” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries 

  [4] E.W. “What is gender budgeting?” The Economist. March 3, 2017. https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/03/economist-explains-2 

  [5] Angelika Blickhauser, Henning von Bargen. “What is Gender Budgeting?” Gender Toolbox. Fit for Gender Mainstreaming. Berlin 2007.  http://www.fit-for-gender.org/toolbox/toolboxEN/Downloads/5.%20Materials/Engl_PDFsMaterials/5.2.pdf 

  [6] Andres Cadena, Anu Madgavkar. “Greater women’s equality in Latin America would unlock $1 trillion” Americas Quarterly. Dec. 1, 2015. http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/overview/in-the-news/greater-womens-equality-in-latin-america-would-unlock-1-trillion 

  [7] International Monetary Fund. “Introduction” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

  [8] International Monetary Fund. “Introduction” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

  [9] International Monetary Fund. “Introduction” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

  [10] E.W. “What is gender budgeting?” The Economist. March 3, 2017. https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/03/economist-explains-2

  [11] International Monetary Fund. “Introduction” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

  [12] International Monetary Fund. “Appendix II. Gender Budgeting in G7 and Other Selected Countries” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

  [13] Debbie Budlender. “Review of gender budget initiatives.” International Budget Partnership. March 2001. http://www.internationalbudget.org/publications/review-of-gender-budget-initiatives/  

  [14] The Department on the Status of Women. “Gender Analysis Reports.” The City and County of San Francisco. http://sfgov.org/dosw/gender-analysis-reports 

  [15]International Monetary Fund. “Appendix II. Gender Budgeting in G7 and Other Selected Countries” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

  [16] International Monetary Fund. “Appendix II. Gender Budgeting in G7 and Other Selected Countries” Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries. May 13, 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

  [17] E.W. “What is gender budgeting?” The Economist. March 3, 2017. https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/03/economist-explains-2

  [18] Lekha Chakraborty. “Asia: A Survey of Gender Budgeting Efforts” IMF Working Paper No. 16/150. July 28, 2016. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2016/12/31/Asia-A-Survey-of-Gender-Budgeting-Efforts-44143 

  [19] Janet G. Stotsky. “Gender Budgeting: Fiscal Context and Current Outcomes” IMF Working Paper No. 16/149. July 27, 2016. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2016/12/31/Gender-Budgeting-Fiscal-Context-and-Current-Outcomes-44132 


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