Do national budgets ignore the different roles and responsibilities of men or women? How can national budgets better reflect the economic contribution of women? And does increased gender equity lead to efficiency and economic growth? This background paper from the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Gender Responsive Budget Initiatives looks at budgets through women’s eyes.
National budgets do not take account of women’s contribution – for example homeworking, care activities and voluntary and civic work. As this activity is not included in the budget, it is also marginalised or ignored by policy makers, leading to further discrimination against women, and impaired economic efficiency. We need to change we the way that we look at the relationship between different areas of economic life – such as the public and private sectors, the domestic, and the formal and informal economies. By seeing households as producers rather than just consumers it will be possible to develop a clearer analysis of women’s economic roles and activities.
This paper develops a conceptual framework for gender-sensitive budgeting. The framework emphasises measuring women’s contribution to the economy and engendering of macro-economic models. It outlines possible options for engendered budget strategies.
- Most budget systems do not measure women’s work that takes place outside large market- oriented, formal establishments. Uncounted women’s work includes subsistence production, informal sector employment, reproductive work and voluntary community work.
- Estimates suggest that women’s unpaid work is worth around $11 trillion each year, compared to a global GDP of $23 trillion.
- Current economic models see the household as a consumer of goods and public services rather than a producer that provides valuable inputs and resources into both public and private economies.
- While gender desegregation of decision making and economic activity data allows for a better analysis, it still ignores the care economy – domestic and voluntary work.
- The care economy is vital for an effective social framework. An inadequately maintained social framework means reduced productivity and growth.
- The inputs and outputs of the care economy should be included in budget analysis. A deficit in the care economy can be just as damaging as any other fiscal deficit.
Ignoring the gender implications of budgeting and fiscal policy can result in a depletion of the social framework. This can lead to a loss in productivity and slowed growth. Some policy options that will improve the measurement of women’s activity and ensure equitable policy include:
- Set up a parallel budget or ‘satellite accounts’ that focus on measuring and trying to quantify the value of unpaid output in the care economy.
- Gender aware evaluation of public services. If effectiveness is achievement of results at the lowest possible cost, it is important to ask results for whom? And costs for whom?
- Evaluate whether there is a balance between the amount of unpaid work that needs to be done, and the time available to do so. This will provide an early warning of the sustainability of the social framework.
- Invest in the care economy to ensure the sustainability of the social framework. This should incorporate greater provision of free public services such as health care and education.