Chapter 5. Advancing gender budgeting in Canada

This Chapter assesses the efforts of the Government of Canada so far in relation to gender budgeting and provides recommendations for how developments to date can be built upon to ensure a more effective and sustainable approach. Gender budgeting has only recently been introduced in Canada but is already proving itself to be an influential tool, encouraging departments to think in a more structured way about the design and conduct of GBA+ and to develop policies that help achieve gender results. Significant gender budgeting attention has focussed on the introduction of gender equality-related content in the budget. However, the presentation of this information is just one element of the wide-ranging approach to gender budgeting being developed by Canada. Reviewing the gender impact of baseline spend and strengthening the application of a gender lens to ex post processes such as evaluation and spending review will help ensure that gender budgeting is embedded across the full budget cycle. Parliamentary scrutiny of gender budgeting remains at an under-developed stage, but will be essential to ensure the government is held to account for its actions in this area.

    

5.1. Introduction

Gender budgeting means the systematic application of analytical tools and processes, as a routine part of the budget process, in order to highlight gender equality issues and to inform, prioritise and resource gender-responsive policies.

The 2015 Recommendation and its implementation Toolkit identify gender budgeting as a key tool of a system-wide government approach to deliver gender equality outcomes. The OECD approach to gender budgeting underlines that this should not be a standalone tool, but should be organically linked with a country’s broader gender equality framework (see Chapter 2).

While FIN has incorporated GBA+ into its budget processes since 1995, there has been no specific requirement for expenditure or tax policy measures to be linked with gender equality objectives. With gender equality and inclusiveness identified as over-arching policy principles by the current Government of Canada, FIN announced in 2016 a commitment to introduce gender budgeting. A key feature of FIN’s approach to gender budgeting is that it builds on existing strengths of the Canadian system, in particular gender-based analysis. The commitment stated:

“To ensure that the government continues to deliver real and meaningful change for all Canadians, it will submit Budget 2017, and all future budgets, to more rigorous analysis by completing and publishing a gender-based analysis of budgetary measures.” (Government of Canada, 2016[56])

This initiative, and its subsequent development, has brought Canada into a group of 16 OECD countries who have already introduced elements of gender budgeting1. Canada was among the first wave of G7 countries to implement a gender budgeting approach at the national level. This chapter assesses the nature of the gender budgeting initiative within Canada and offers recommendations for how it could be developed further.

5.2. Implementation of gender budgeting in Canada

5.2.1. Gender budgeting developments so far

When the Government of Canada made the public commitment towards a gender-based analysis of budgetary measures in 2016, the Budget 2017 process was already well underway and FIN had already received letters from the departments with their budget proposals. The gender-based analysis of budgetary measures – i.e. the specific commitment in the 2016 Fall Economic Statement – needed to draw in the first instance upon information provided through existing GBA+ processes and practices. This information was formulated into a “Gender Statement”, included as a chapter within the main Budget 2017 publication (March 2017). The Gender Statement was composed of two main elements:

  1. Overview statistics in relation to gender in Canada in 2017, including an assessment of the gender wage gap, labour market challenges, and the likelihood of experiencing poverty and violence.

  2. A description of measures in Budget 2017 aimed at addressing gender-based challenges. This chapter-by-chapter summary outlined measures that were focused on advancing gender equality and their anticipated impact, with the information drawn almost exclusively from departmental GBA+.

The initial Gender Statement represented a pragmatic approach to connecting the gender equality agenda with the budget process. It had the advantages of:-

(a) Integrating a gender equality report as a core element of the government’s main budget document, rather than as ancillary information,

(b) Drawing upon the extensive corpus of GBA+ material that is routinely generated within Canada’s policy making system,

(c) Helping to bring key elements of the GBA+ material into public view, thus promoting a more transparent approach, and

(d) Providing an accountability tool to inform parliamentary and public debate on how the agenda of gender equality is being advanced at the federal level.

In presenting the Gender Statement, the Government of Canada acknowledged that its development was not complete, noting that “Future Gender Statements will provide more in-depth analysis of proposed budget measures” and committing the government to “improve upon this work, and make meaningful progress in elevating gender to the mainstream of government decision-making” (Government of Canada, 2017[57]).

In preparation for Budget 2018, FIN took a number of steps to improve the gender-based analysis of budget measures in line with its public commitment. In order to further improve the quantity and quality of GBA+ that it had to draw on, the Minister of Finance explicitly referenced the need for clear and rigorous GBA+ in all budget and off-cycle funding proposals in letters to Ministers. The core requirements relating to this development were outlined in instructions distributed to departments explaining the nature of the supporting analysis that should be provided. Importantly, departmental stakeholders reported that these changes have already encouraged them to think in a more structured way about the design and conduct of GBA+ and more profoundly about the potential gender impact of new policies and proposals.

Over the course of the OECD Review, the OECD worked with FIN to further develop the content of the gender statement accompanying Budget 2018, now in the form of an Equality Chapter. Key developments included:

  • The introduction of a Gender Results Framework to guide Budget 2018 and future budgets. This provides a whole-of-government tool to measure progress in Canada in relation to gender equality, and to help identify where the greatest gaps remain.

  • A more comprehensive GBA+ of budget 2018. This provided information on the key tax and spend measures within each budget chapter and summarised their impact on gender equality, even if the measures were not directly aimed at supporting gender equality.

  • The highlighting of areas where there is room for improvement in the GBA+ presented to FIN alongside budget measures, to ensure that that quality of GBA+ presented alongside budget proposals improves and goes beyond a tick box exercise.

These developments further built the momentum for gender budgeting in Canada. In Budget 2018, no budget decision was taken without being informed by GBA+. In addition, government stakeholders reported that the new Gender Results Framework provided a useful framework for policy discussion and helped guide Ministerial decision making in relation to resource allocation.

Canada is now in the position where it presents comprehensive gender information and analysis as part of the budget relative to OECD peers (see Table 5.1).

Table 5.1. Gender information presented as part of the budget across OECD countries

OECD country

Gender objectives

Progress statement in relation to gender objectives

Information on total spending allocated to gender equality projects

Gender impact analysis of specific budget measures

Gender impact analysis of budget as a whole

Canada

Iceland

Japan

Korea

Mexico

Portugal

Spain

Sweden

Note: Data shown only for the OECD countries which publish gender information alongside the budget.

Source: (OECD, Forthcoming[58])

The Government of Canada is ambitious to continue developing its gender budgeting practice in the years ahead and explicitly stated this in Budget 2018. In line with this commitment, the government has already undertaken to publish GBA+ of all budget items starting in Budget 2019.

Gender equality advocacy groups and other civil society organisations have in general been supportive of the 2017 Gender Statement and 2018 Equalities Chapter, viewing these initiatives as a “bold step forward” for gender equality in Canada. In general terms, civil society stakeholders acknowledge that gender budgeting in Canada is in its early stages and accept at face value, for now, the government’s public commitment to undertaking improvements. Most are prepared to reserve judgement about the effectiveness of gender budgeting until the process has been given space to mature. However, the same stakeholders expressed that the test of its effectiveness will be determined ultimately by two factors:

  1. The extent to which the gender equality-related content in the budget develops as a political “PR” tool of government versus an accountability tool to further gender equality. The coverage and content of the statement seems crucial to this question. If information is only provided on selected positive measures, the government may be accused of “cherry-picking” the information that it presents. On the other hand, a full and open presentation helps foster public trust and build an understanding of the difficult policy trade-offs with which policy makers and political leaders must sometimes contend.

  2. The extent to which gender budgeting acts as a catalyst for important and significant policy developments in the area of gender equality, e.g., in the area of childcare.

Further development of gender equality-related content in the budget

Taking account of the developments to date and the insights and suggestions of various stakeholders in Canada, and of effective international experiences of gender budgeting, further steps that FIN could take to strengthen the comprehensiveness of the GBA+ of the budget would be to:

  • Deliver on its commitment to provide information on how all budget measures, including cuts, are anticipated to impact gender equality, drawing on information from the GBA+ that accompany each budget proposal.

  • Increase recognition, where possible, of intersectionality and how key budget measures might impact different groups of society, such as Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and different gender identities, where data is available.

FIN could also further strengthen the gender equality-related content presented with budget by:

  • Presenting analysis showing the distributional impact of new tax and benefit measures on different groups of women and men. This type of analysis is already undertaken in-house by FIN, but public systematic presentation of this information – as is done in other OECD countries (see Box 5.1) - will help improve transparency. FIN could also present analysis on how the budget impacts incentives for second earners to enter formal employment2 and the ability of difference groups of women and men to access public services.

  • Developing capacity for gender budget tagging to highlight and monitor how much money is disbursed through the budget in order to achieve gender equality goals. This development would not necessarily involve re-engineering of the financial management IT system; it should rather build upon the innovative policy tagging system that is being advanced by the RDU (see Chapter 3).

While incorporating new developments to strengthen the gender-equality-related content in the budget, in the medium-term FIN should aim to develop a standard format and structure, which can be expected to remain broadly stable over time to ensure transparency and facilitate accountability. It may be prudent to present core gender information – such as the Gender Results Framework - and summary analysis in the budget document, while presenting more comprehensive analysis in accompanying material.

Box 5.1. Examples of distributional analysis accompanying the budget

United Kingdom

The UK Government publishes a distributional analysis of the budget’s impact on households. This analysis looks at the impact of new measures on different household net income deciles. Where possible, policy changes are analysed using HM Treasury’s IntraGovernmental Tax and Benefit microsimulation model.

The distributional analysis includes tax, welfare and public service spending measures implemented since the start of the parliamentary term that carry a direct, quantifiable impact on households. With respect to spending on public services, the cash value spent on the public service is converted into an identical cash gain to households. Where there is insufficient data to robustly model the distributional impact of a measure, it is not included.

Source: (HM Treasury UK, 2017[24])

Ireland

The Government of Ireland publishes a distributional analysis of budget measures on a variety of household family types across a range of income levels. This analysis is undertaken using the Economic and Social Research Institute’s SWITCH model and it shows the combined effect of social welfare and tax changes contained in the budget. Distribution tables show the impact of budget measures for different family types – single individuals, married couples, families with children - across a range of income levels.

In 2014, the ESRI and the Equality Authority also co-published a study on the gender impact of tax, welfare and public-sector pay changes. The analysis was based on the ESRI’s new Microsimulation Method for Equality Analysis which used the Institute’s tax benefit model to assess the impacts of policy changes on men and women, based on a large-scale nationally representative survey. Faced with limited information on how income is shared between couples, the study presented results based on a number of different scenarios.

Sources: (Government of Ireland, 2016[25]) and (Keane Claire, Callan Tim, 2014[25])

5.2.2. Embedding GBA+ approaches across the full budgeting and policy cycle

OECD analysis points to a range of opportunities across the budget cycle in which the gender perspective can be brought to bear (Downes, Von Trapp and Nicol, 2016[59]). Significant gender budgeting attention has focussed on the introduction of gender equality-related content as part of the budget. However, the presentation of this information is just one element of the wide-ranging approach to gender budgeting being developed by Canada (see Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1. Elements of gender budgeting embedded across the Canadian budget cycle
picture

In the Canadian context ex ante gender budgeting approaches are relatively well developed thanks to the GBA+ tool and recent efforts to improve its application. The introduction of a gender perspective in pre-budget consultations is also a strength of the Canadian approach (see Section 5.2.4). However, as these efforts focus on incremental budget measures there would be merit in better understanding the gender impact of baseline spending. In recognition of this, in Budget 2018 the government committed to “extending the reach of GBA+ to examine tax expenditures, federal transfers and the existing spending base, including the Estimates” (Government of Canada, 2018[8]).

To take forward this area of work, TBS may wish to work with departments to develop a rolling programme of gender budget baseline analysis. This could involve a set number of “deep dive” exercises each year to identify the gender impact of specific budget programmes. The value of this exercise is only realised if the results are used to inform future policy development and budget decisions. The results of gender budget baseline analyses should also be made public to facilitate citizens holding the government to account for its decisions and to ensure transparency.

In addition, as indicated in Chapters 3 and 4, the introduction of a whole-of-government Gender Results Framework has raised the priority of gender considerations within resource allocation decisions and allows for the tracking of progress against gender equality objectives over time. Gender considerations are also being incorporated into departmental planning and reporting processes. Nevertheless, there is scope to further ensure a gender perspective is incorporated into ex post gender budgeting approaches such as evaluations, performance audits and spending review.

It is observed that embedding gender budgeting throughout the budget cycle requires the collective effort of a number of government stakeholders. FIN is well placed to take a leadership role to help mobilise and strengthen the wide range of gender budgeting tools being implemented by different government stakeholders across the budget cycle. By working closely with SWC and other key stakeholders (including PCO, TBS, departments and the OAG) across government, FIN can ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach to gender budgeting continues to develop. To facilitate this, FIN may consider instituting an inter-agency gender budgeting working group, drawing on models such as Iceland’s Gender Budgeting Committee (see Box 5.2). Any working group would need to coordinate closely with cross-departmental GBA+ networks.

Box 5.2. Iceland’s Gender Budgeting Committee

Iceland’s Gender Budgeting Committee has been set up, and is led by, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in a formal cooperation with the Ministry of Welfare. The Committee includes representatives of all the ministries and the Centre for Gender Equality. It is responsible for preparing the implementation programme for gender budgeting. Similarly, steering groups in all the ministries are responsible for implementing gender budgeting within each ministry.

Source: (Government of Iceland,(n.d.)[60])

5.2.3. Parliamentary scrutiny of gender budgeting

The 2017 Gender Statement and 2018 Equalities Chapter are well placed to be useful tools of accountability. Subjecting gender equality-related content in the budget to scrutiny by parliamentarians is one of the key potential benefits of this approach, opening the way for substantive engagement with the policy priorities, and reporting of results.

The first year that the Gender Statement was published, neither the FINA Committee, nor the FEWO Committee extended their scrutiny to look at it. In 2018, however, the FEWO Committee took the welcome step of holding its first ever hearing with the Minister for Finance in relation to the impact of Budget 2018 on women and girls. The engagement of the FEWO Committee this scrutiny is a positive step forward. However, scrutiny of gender budgeting remains under-developed relative to practices in other OECD countries where the parliament is observed to be more engaged (see Box 5.3 for the example of Austria). It is not yet clear if there is a fixed “home” for parliamentary scrutiny of equality-related content in the budget, leaving accountability for it in a weak position. In the longer term, a more robust accountability model may involve both the Finance and FEWA Committees holding a joint session to examine the equality impact of the budget. Committee(s) would be expected to engage with the Finance Minister and the Minister for Status of Women, as well as gender equality advocacy groups, in undertaking this scrutiny.

Box 5.3. Parliamentary scrutiny of gender budgeting in Austria

In Austria, gender equality and gender budgeting are an integrated part of the federal budget law and the performance budgeting system. Under each of the 33 budget chapters, Ministers have to define five outcome objectives, with at least one addressing gender equality. Progress is reported in the Annual Federal Performance Report. In general, a high level of interest from the MPs in relation to gender equality is reported. The Budget Committee at the Austrian Parliament scrutinises gender equality objectives as part of its budget oversight. The committee often holds intensive discussions on the objectives, and they are also debated in plenary sessions. MPs often question their relevance, the level of ambition and the availability of adequate funds to achieve them.

Source: (Berger Helmut, 2017[25])

Scrutiny of gender budgeting by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO)

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) was established in 2008 to support parliament by providing analysis of macroeconomic and fiscal policy for the purposes of raising the quality of parliamentary debate and promoting greater budget transparency and accountability. It has a mandate to provide independent analysis to parliament on the budget, the estimates and other documents.

In relation to its work on the annual budget proposal, the PBO has not yet engaged in scrutiny of the budget’s gender equality-related content. However, it has developed some budget analysis tools that provide independent assessment of how budget measures impact individuals in different circumstances. For example, the PBO has an online tool allowing users to input their income, and other personal details, and get an estimate of the impact that proposed changes will have on their federal monthly benefits, after-tax or disposable income, and their federal income taxes payable. The PBO also incorporates distributional analysis into some of its costings work, particularly where members indicate that they have an interest in this information. It may also occasionally independently assess the validity of analysis the government has produced on the distributional impacts of its proposed measures. However, in general the government does not produce significant material in this respect.

Presently, the PBO has a broad mandate and relatively low staffing by international standards, forcing the office to heavily prioritise how it uses its resources. However, with the PBO in the process of expanding its staffing capacity, the question of engaging more substantively with equality-related content in the budget would appear to be both practicable and appropriate: particularly if parliamentary committees move towards a more structured approach to scrutiny of this in future.

The PBO’s independent authority and fiscal expertise would lend themselves well to future assessment of equality-related content in the budget. If the PBO is to engage in this area, a useful starting point may be the provision of independent distributional analysis on the extent to which gender equality is effectively promoted through the tax and benefit policies in the budget proposal has the potential to improve budget transparency and accountability and support broader parliamentary scrutiny of the budget. The PBO may also consider incorporating GBA+ analysis in its reports as part of a standard practice. There are examples of other independent fiscal institutions across the OECD which apply a gender dimension to their work (see Box 5.4).

Box 5.4. Independent fiscal institutions and analysis of gender equality

Swedish Fiscal Policy Council

The Swedish Fiscal Policy Council was established in 2007 as the independent fiscal institution for Sweden. The Government’s instruction to the Council asks it to ‘analyse the effects of fiscal policy on the distribution of welfare in the short and the long term.’ Every year since 1989, the Government’s Budget Bill has included an annex on the distribution of economic resources between women and men. This annex is part of Government efforts to change the distribution of resources between women and men. In its 2016 Report, the Council opted to devote a chapter to the scrutiny of this annex. In this chapter, the Council outlines how the annex could be improved to better support Government’s objectives in the area of equality policy.

Source: (Swedish Fiscal Policy Council, 2016[61])

US Congressional Budget Office (CBO)

The US CBO produces independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process. It does not routinely include a gender dimension to its distributional analysis. However, there are some examples where it applies a gender dimension to its work. For example, each year the CBO prepares long-term projections of the federal government’s revenues and outlays, including those for the Social Security program. The 2016 projections illustrate the distribution of benefits paid to and payroll taxes collected for men and women, as shown in the table below:

picture

Source: (Congressional Budget Office, 2016[62])

5.2.4. Developing an effective and sustainable approach to gender budgeting

Gender budgeting presents significant social and economic opportunities for Canada. However, implementing an effective and sustainable gender budgeting approach can be challenging. Some challenges derive from the differing levels of importance given to gender equality by successive governments (see Box 5.5 for the experience in Australia), whereas others relate more broadly to the challenges faced when implementing any new practice or procedure in government.

Box 5.5. The rise and fall of gender budgeting in Australia

The Government of Australia was considered a “pioneer” of gender budgeting when it included a Women’s Budget Statement as part of the 1984/85 budget documents. By the late 1980s the Women’s Budget Statement became part of an integrated approach, which included the development of a National Agenda for Women.

Over subsequent years, however, the Women’s Budget Statement came to be viewed as an exercise internal to the bureaucracy, and of little relevance to the women’s movement. Political and administrative championing of the Women’s Budget Statement fell away, and the document was dramatically downsized in budgets 1994–95 and 1995–96.

Following the election of a new government in 1996, the Women’s Budget Statement was effectively discontinued at the federal level; and the concept of gender budgeting in Australia has retained ideological and political associations which have hindered its re-emergence as a ‘neutral’ and broadly-supported tool of modern policy making.

Source: (Sharp and Broomhill, 2013[63])

An OECD publication on Governance Guidelines for Gender Budgeting (OECD, Forthcoming[64]) presents essential elements to help to successfully embed a gender perspective within the Public Financial Management framework, a number of which are relevant to the Canadian context. These include:

  • Providing legal foundations for gender budgeting;

  • Building a corpus of gender-disaggregated data;

  • The Department of Finance as an advocate for gender budgeting;

  • Ensuring gender budgeting is open to critical perspectives; and

  • Measuring the impact of gender budgeting.

Proposed directions for advancing these elements in Canada are provided in the following paragraphs.

Providing legal foundations for gender budgeting

Legislation that is fully tested and debated in parliament can help embed gender budgeting as a valued and enduring feature of public policy making and insulate it, as far as possible, from fluctuations arising from the economic or political environment. Gender budgeting has legal underpinning in half of the OECD countries where it is practiced (see Figure 5.2). The nature and objectives of the legal provisions for gender budgeting vary in line with country-specific circumstances.

Figure 5.2. Legal foundations for gender budgeting across OECD countries
picture

Note: Shows data only for OECD countries where gender budgeting is practised.

Source: (OECD, Forthcoming[58])

In Canada’s case, with a Westminster model of government, the prerogatives of the executive branch in preparing its budgetary proposals, and the role of parliament in scrutinising and authorising the budget, are governed by convention rather than by an organic budget law. Nonetheless, there are a number of avenues open to the government to codify its gender budgeting practices.

In line with the OECD Review recommendations in this area, the Government of Canada announced in Budget 2018 that it will ask the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine making it a requirement that when any Minister of Finance tables a Budget in the House of Commons, a GBA+ analysis of the budget documents must be tabled concurrently. This would provide a sustainable and enduring basis for the practice into the future and bring the Canadian approach in line with OECD best practice.

Building a corpus of gender-disaggregated data

The GBA+ of the budget and wider gender budgeting efforts will only ever be as good as the data that informs them. FIN should to continue to highlight areas of policy where there is room for improvement in GBA+, as it did within the 2018 Equalities Chapter. This will help reinforce the efforts of SWC, TBS and departments in this area.

Improved GBA+ will require more in-depth gender-disaggregated data than are currently available. The Budget 2018 proposal to invest $6.7 million over five years for Statistics Canada to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics, a Centre that will act as GBA+ data hub will be particularly helpful in moving forward in this regard. Budget 2018 also proposes to provide $5 million per year to Status of Women Canada to undertake research and data collection in support of the Government’s Gender Results Framework.

The Department of Finance as an advocate for gender budgeting

Government departments are usually in a better position to drive institutional change when they “practice what they preach”. In particular, FIN has an opportunity to act as an advocate for gender budgeting by strengthening gender mainstreaming and the quality of GBA+ in its own policy areas, as is the case in Sweden (see Box 5.6). The announcement as part of Budget 2018 that FIN will extend the reach of GBA+ to examine tax expenditures was particularly welcome in this regard.

Box 5.6. Role of the Swedish Ministry of Finance in gender mainstreaming

Apart from responsibility for coordinating the budget work, the Ministry of Finance has five policy areas of its own. The Ministry has appointed four gender equality coordinators who work within the various areas of responsibility at the Ministry. Some examples of the Finance Ministry’s gender mainstreaming work are outlined below.

Making gender visible in distributional analysis: The Finance Ministry’s Economic Department is responsible for producing a special distribution policy appendix to the Spring Fiscal Policy Bill. Cognisant of its gender mainstreaming role, the Department introduced changes to make gender visible throughout the distributional policy appendix.

Improved gender guidance in budget circulars: The Ministry of Finance’s Budget Department has worked with the Government Offices’ Gender Equality Division in drawing up the directions sent to all ministries regarding the forthcoming Budget Bill. The ambition has been to make the gender perspective clearer in these steering documents.

Gender perspective on tax reforms: The Finance Ministry’s Tax Department developed improved methods for analysing tax legislation proposals from a gender equality perspective

Applying a gender perspective to briefing material for international negotiations: The Finance Ministry’s International Department has begun work with the objective of introducing gender equality aspects into briefing material for international negotiation work within bodies such as the EU, IMF and OECD. The point of departure here is economic efficiency from a gender equality perspective.

Source: (Government of Sweden, 2007[65])

To facilitate its role as the leader and advocate for gender budgeting, FIN may also benefit from increasing its gender economics capacity. In order to work effectively as partners, it is also recommended that SWC should increase its economics capacity. Indeed, SWC received significant new funding as part of Budget 2018 which can help it do this. This cross-fertilisation of skillsets will enable more gainful conversations between FIN and SWC.

This expert capacity would support the government in delivering its commitment to extend the reach of GBA+ to examine tax expenditures, federal transfers and the existing spending base, including the Estimates. It could also provide the scope for FIN, SWC and Statistics Canada to work together and research some of the more challenging topics in the area of gender budgeting, supporting the policy development work of departments and improved resource allocation decisions. Research might focus on topics such as the gender impact of policies in “hard-to-understand” areas (such as environment), or the assessment of the extent to which macroeconomic investment decisions (such as infrastructure versus social spending) can act as a hindrance or a catalyst for gender equality. The publication of such research would help develop the evidence base for departmental policy-making (see Section 2.2.5) and push the frontier for GBA+ and gender budgeting in Canada.

Measuring the impact of gender budgeting

Gender budgeting is a new tool for the Canadian Government and, as with any new tool, it is important to have a measurement framework in place that is capable of assessing the extent to which it is delivering the intended results. The Gender Results Framework provides a useful tool in terms of tracking broad progress in achieving gender equality objectives across different areas.

Given that – in addition to government policy - there are many factors which can impact progress towards gender equality objectives, it would also be useful for FIN to develop an additional evaluation mechanism which is able to capture how policies and resource allocation decisions change as a result of gender budgeting. Such information may be difficult to obtain for a number of reasons. For example, it may be difficult to identify the influence of gender budgeting on policy as it will not show up as a discrete step in the policy development process and it will be difficult to control for the impacts of political leadership and direction. However, any information that can be presented on the impact of gender budgeting will help stakeholders better understand its merits and support cultural change within public policy making. Ongoing evaluation could be conducted by FIN or another government agency (as is the case in Sweden, see Box 5.7).

Box 5.7. Measuring the impact of gender budgeting in Sweden

The Swedish Government have given the Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV), a government agency, responsibility for measuring the impact of gender budgeting reforms that have been carried out by the government. The agency will look at the impact of gender budgeting reforms as well as other budget reforms that may have had an impact on gender equality. It is hoped that the assessments will provide improved awareness of the wide range of budgeting factors which can contribute to or reduce gender equality. This will put the Swedish Government in a better position to put measures in place that correct these inequalities.

Source: Government of Sweden 2017

The government could also engage local or international experts to periodically review gender budgeting efforts. Case studies may also provide useful insights into how gender budgeting is influencing policy development, overall resource allocation and gender outcomes, as well as the barriers it is facing, can help improve its effectiveness over time.

Ensuring gender budgeting is open to critical perspectives

In keeping with its role in promoting a profound consideration and re-appraisal of budgeting choices and priorities, it is important that gender budgeting should not lose contact with its feminist-inspired origins and critical perspectives. Allowing gender budgeting to be introduced on a superficial basis, with facile modifications of existing processes and procedures, would not allow for the necessary “challenge” function to be introduced within policy-making; and would undermine wider trust in the ability of gender budgeting to bring about radical change to pre-existing policies and to the disposition of public resources. As one strategy to ensure that gender budgeting retains its critical focus, it is advisable that civil society be engaged in a meaningful way with the design and implementation of national approaches3.

The consultative approach that has been initiated by FIN, in the context of developing the 2017 Gender Statement and 2018 Equalities Chapter, through the incorporation of a gender perspective to pre-budget consultations, should be built upon, developed and refined so that the views of civil society stakeholders on gender issues are taken into account in a more systematic and timely manner. In line with findings in Section 4.2.2, specific recommendations arising from OECD and other international good practice4 are to:

  • Establish a fixed calendar for timely consultation at key stages of the budget cycle (ex ante and ex post);

  • Make explicit the purposes, scope and process of civil society engagement;

  • Publically reporting on the extent to which the findings of the consultation process have been reflected in the budget; and

  • Provide information about budgetary constraints and policy costings, as well as maximum transparency regarding the findings of GBA+ reports, so as to promote realistic and informed discussion of priorities and trade-offs.

Given that Canada is a large country, it may also be useful to cover travel expenses and/or allow videoconferencing to ensure the participation of citizen’s groups which may have limited financial and human resources.

5.2.5. Subnational gender budgeting developments

The independence of the subnational governments in the conduct of their internal affairs is a fundamental constitutional principle in Canada (see section 2.4). As a result, the gender budgeting developments at the federal level have no direct implications for the other levels of government in terms of how they prepare their budgets. However, a number of provincial and municipal governments, such as Alberta, New Brunswick, and Ontario along with Edmonton and Toronto are considering how to take forward their own gender budgeting initiatives (see Box 5.8).

Box 5.8. Examples of gender budgeting at the subnational level in Canada

Alberta

When the Government of Alberta created the province’s first Ministry of Status of Women in 2015, it made a commitment to advancing gender equality. Its approach is based on four pillars: gender budgeting, GBA+, data and analytics, engagement and community capacity building.

The Government of Alberta is introducing gender budgeting through a phased approach.  For Budget 2018, a gender budgeting statement identifies spending on programmes and initiatives that have a positive impact on gender equality, and areas which require additional work. Alberta’s commitment to these priorities was identified in ministry business plans and the government’s strategic plan.

At full implementation, the Government of Alberta is looking to use gender budgeting as a tool to incorporate gender and diversity perspectives into the design, development, adoption, and execution of all business cycle processes, including Business Plans and Annual Reports so that financial planners can allocate resources where they are most needed and where they will have the greatest overall impact for gender equality.

Source: Government of Alberta 2018

Edmonton

Beginning in 2017, Edmonton City Administration committed to implementing broad based GBA+ training to share responsibility among the City’s senior leadership for providing guidance, resources and support to enable the broad adoption of GBA+ throughout the organisation. To date more than 400 City staff, including 80 percent of senior leaders, have completed GBA+ training.

The City Administration also intends to begin testing the use of GBA+ analysis as a corporate business planning tool in alignment with the 2019-2022 budget cycle. During 2019-2022 business planning, City Administration will complete a GBA+ analysis for select City policies, services and/or initiatives to understand how they impact and are experienced by diverse Edmontonians. These analyses will provide an additional lens to understand the potential GBA+ implications of the selected City policies, services and initiatives at the planning stage, and may be used by City business areas to shape budget requests to enable a more equitable approach to select policies, services and initiatives.

The City will also prepare a summary that identifies spending on programs and initiatives that have a positive impact on gender equality, along with areas where a GBA+ lens can be used to plan for more equitable outcomes for diverse Edmontonians. Together, all of this testing will support City Administration in exploring how to apply a GBA+ lens more broadly as part of corporate business planning in the future.

Source: City of Edmonton 2018

While the autonomy of subnational governments helps to foster a range of innovative approaches to gender budgeting, there are practical implications in terms of ensuring that good practices are disseminated. More importantly, many issues of gender equality have commonalities, and indeed dependencies, that transcend the various levels of government in Canada. One notable example is the intersectionality between gender and the experiences of Indigenous peoples throughout Canada. Addressing such issues in an optimal way would benefit from some degree of practical coordination and knowledge-sharing among the various authorities, while respecting the legal and constitutional prerogatives of the various entities in question.

While the modalities of such coordination are beyond the scope of this OECD review, it is notable that some preliminary work in this area is already in train among some of the authorities at the various levels of government. It may also be advisable for FIN and SWC to facilitate this more coordinated approach, through convening a cross-government working group on gender budgeting aimed at sharing best practice, and exchanging insights on how policy goals might best be coordinated and sequenced among the national

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Notes

← 1. Other OECD countries to have introduced gender budgeting are: Austria, Belgium, Chile, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Sweden (OECD, Forthcoming[58]).

← 2. For more information, see - http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/fr/taxation/the-impact-of-tax-and-benefit-systems-on-the-workforce-participation-incentives-of-women_d950acfc-en;jsessionid=73v93jehhcuhc.x-oecd-live-02

← 3. A. O’Hagan, E. Klatzer (eds.) (2018), Gender Budgeting in Europe, - https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64891-0_1

← 4. See OECD (2017) Budget Transparency Toolkit; OECD (2016).